"Escaping the Kingdom": 2 Saudi Sisters and their Search for Freedom
Dua and Dalal, sisters from Saudi Arabia, have, since their escape from oppression, lived in secret in Turkey whilst seeking asylum in another country; fearing that they will be kidnapped and forcibly returned to Saudi Arabia by their father, and thus compelled to continue to obey his demands, and suffer how numerous other women are forced to suffer in the state.
The two escaped in the knowledge that their lives would be, and are now, at risk; however, the desire to be free and live how they want to live proves to be stronger.
‘Vice News’ has now covered this story, undertaking extensive interviews with the girls, and their Barrister, Mr. Toby Cadman of Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers.
Their Lives at Risk
Some three months ago, whilst travelling with their parents in Turkey, the two sisters (aged 20, and 22), made a decision, and took the opportunity that had presented itself.
The two knew that their lives would be in danger, but they knew what was waiting for them if they went home. Their father had already taken steps to arrange for them to be married to men that they both knew would control every aspect of their lives. A husband in Saudi Arabia is not a partner to share your life with, he is a ruler to be obeyed no matter what his demand; Dalal confirming that “If he [a Saudi husband] says he wants to sleep with me, I cannot refuse, because it is a sin”.
A 50 year old man, and one with two wives already, and children, had recently sought to marry her, and when she raised an issue with her family she was told “Why do you care? A woman’s only concern about a man is his wealth and to bare his children”.
The position for Dua is however further complicated as she is gay, something that she has previously hidden given the ramifications for her. For instance, having once shaved her hair completely as “I hated it long”, he was brutally beaten by her father.
The fear they currently live in is not fanciful, it is demonstrable and credible, Toby Cadman noting “based on previous cases, we have to assume that the family will do whatever is necessary to take these girls, and either taken them back to Saudi Arabia or kill them”.
The sisters risked everything despite knowing that they did not have enough money to survive on their own; fortunately a Saudi activist has been providing some support, as well as HRDF (a local UN partner).
They have now been able to secure their ‘asylum-seeker’ ID from the Turkish Government, and therefore, they are to an extent protected. The Turkish Government can now not return the girls to Saudi Arabia, however, the threat of kidnap remains constant; the Turkish authorities have informed the girls that their father is actively looking for them, and has sought to bribe police officers and other individuals to locate them.
The hope, is that a ‘third’ country agrees to offer the sisters asylum, countries such as Germany, the UK, Canada etc. however, the process is bureaucratic and therefore can often take months. Safety is still a very real concern therefore, perhaps exacerbated by the fact that their father has made contact over the phone, telling them that he wouldn’t harm them, despite the fact that the girls have both been victim to punishment beatings previously.
Further, Vice News have made contact with him, Mr. Khalid Al Showaiki, whereupon he, unsurprisingly, denied the allegations, noting that the family is “shocked and surprised” at the allegations, and that the actions of the girls “is the precariousness of youth, and that there are certain people who lied to them or fooled them”.
Their father maintains that “This is a family issue. The people who are putting ideas in their heads and fooling them are the same people who made them run away, are trying to blackmail and scare them”.
In closing the interview, he suggests that “this country [Saudi Arabia] has liberality, progress, and governmental support for the youth, male and female, men and women. Our country is very advanced, and whoever says otherwise isn’t telling the truth”.
This position cannot be credibly maintained. It is accepted that the Saudi Government has sought to change its guardianship system, however, change is not required, absolute and complete abolishment is what is needed. The fact remains that women are not equal, women are imprisoned for attempting to exercise their fundamental rights, and women are remain seen as property.
Dua and Dalal justifiably fear for their safety, but no longer do they want to live in a country where their only freedoms are what their family deem it appropriate to grant.
They ought to have the same rights and freedoms as any other person and that is all they seek; its hoped that an appropriate country grants them asylum urgently.