Saudi women, tired of restraints, find ways to escape
Whenever her father beat her, or bound her wrists and ankles to punish her for perceived disobedience, the Saudi teenager dreamed of escape, she said.
As desperate as she was to leave, however, the same question always stopped her short: How would she get out?
If she ran away anywhere within the country, Saudi police would just send her home, she feared. Saudi law barred her from traveling abroad without her father’s permission.
But during a family vacation in Turkey when she was 17, Shahad al-Muhaimeed saw her chance, and bolted. While her family slept, she took a taxi across the border to Georgia and declared herself a refugee, leaving Saudi Arabia behind to start a new life.
“I now live the way I want to,” said Muhaimeed, 19, by phone from her new home in Sweden. “I live in a good place that has women’s rights.”
World attention was drawn to the status of Saudi women after another teenager, Rahaf Alqunun, was stopped in Thailand last week while trying to make it to Australia to seek refuge there. After an international social media campaign, the United Nations declared her a refugee Wednesday. She was granted asylum in Canada.
The number of young women considering and taking the enormous risk to flee Saudi Arabia appears to have grown in recent years, rights groups say, as women turn to social media to help plan, and sometimes document, their efforts to escape.