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.

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