Business Standard

Runaway Saudi sisters 'treated like slaves', seek help

IANS  |  Tbilisi 

In the latest case of Saudi women fleeing the ultra-conservative kingdom, two sisters are seeking international help and have urged the UN to help them get to a "safe" country.

The sisters -- Wafa, 25, and Maha al-Subaie, 28, -- are currently in Georgia and under state protection in a shelter. But they say they don't feel safe here because "it would be easy for their male relatives to find them", the BBC reported.

"We have to cover our face, we have to cook... like slaves (in Saudi Arabia). We don't want this, we want real life, our life," said Wafa.

"Georgia is a small country and anyone from our family can come and track us down. We want a country that will welcome us and protect our rights."

The women have made their case for international help on Twitter, under the account @GeorgiaSisters and appealed to the UN to help them get to a "third, safe country".

They travelled to Georgia as Saudis do not require entry visas. Looking distressed and terrified, the Saudi sisters arrived at Georgia's migration department on Thursday evening accompanied by immigration authorities.

Asked why they felt threatened in Saudi Arabia, Wafa said it is "because we are women". In Saudi Arabia, women are forced to obtain the permission of their male guardians if they want to work or travel.

"Our family threatens us every day in our country," she said, while her sister Maha said they had proof of this.

In a similar case this year, Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed al-Qanun made international headlines in January after she flew to Thailand and barricaded herself in a hotel while appealing on Twitter for help to avoid deportation.

She has since been granted asylum in Canada.

And in March, two other Saudi sisters who spent six months hiding in Hong Kong were granted humanitarian visas after fleeing to escape lives of "violence and oppression".

"In Saudi Arabia men control women's lives from birth until death under the male guardianship system," said Human Rights Watch Middle East Director Sarah Leah Whitson.

"The Georgian authorities have said they will respect the sisters' right to claim asylum, which is the appropriate and welcome response. The real focus now should be on removing the systematic discrimination that women face in Saudi Arabia and providing meaningful and effective assistance to Saudi women subjected to abuse," she added.



(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, April 19 2019. 17:38 IST