- Two sisters are posting videos and messages from the nation of Georgia, where they say they came fleeing “oppression” at home in Saudi Arabia.
- Maha al-Subaie, 28, and Wafa al-Subaie, 25, have posted public pleas to the United Nations to grant them asylum – a strategy which other Saudi women have successfully used.
- INSIDER understands the sisters have made contact with the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees. They say their father and brothers are pursuing them.
- Earlier this year INSIDER spoke with refugee Shahad al-Mohaimed, who also fled to Georgia, where she was ultimately given asylum in Sweden.
- Rahaf al-Mohammed, another Saudi refugee, raised the profile of women fleeing Saudi Arabia by live-tweeting her request for asylum while barricaded in Bangkok Airport in January.
- Visit Insider.com for more stories.
Two sisters from Saudi Arabia are pleading for asylum in a series of social media posts after fleeing their home country to the nation of Georgia, near the southern border of Russia.
Maha al-Subaie, 28, and Wafa al-Subaie, 25, launched a Twitter account called “Georgia Sisters” to raise awareness to their situation.
They say they are fleeing “oppression” in Saudi Arabia, and that their brother and father are pursuing them. They were not specific about what form the oppression took.
Most women who flee Saudi Arabia cite the kingdom’s oppressive system of male guardianship, which gives men vast power over the women in their families.
In a video posted at 9:00 a.m. Georgia time Wednesday, they said: “We are in danger. We need your support. We want protection. We want country that will protect our rights. The Saudi government has cancelled our passports.”
We are Saudi sisters, my name is Maha and my sister Wafa. We are in danger. We need your support to deliver our voice. We want protection. We want a country to welcomes us and protects our rights. Please help us. Saudi government has canceled our passports. We are now in Georgia pic.twitter.com/aWdGtB8sE2
— georgia sisters (@GeorgiaSisters) April 17, 2019
Georgia is a popular destination for Saudi women trying to escape the country, because they can enter without a visa.
Saudi women’s travel is controlled by their guardians. Permissions are granted and rescinded via a controversial government app called Absher, which INSIDER has reported on extensively.
The permissions system makes it difficult for women to leave the country without their guardians knowing about it. It is not clear how the al-Subaie sisters left Saudi Arabia.
On Wednesday, the sisters wrote on Twitter that the Saudi government has cancelled their passports to prevent them getting away.
The use of Twitter by escapees has become more popular in recent months.
Earlier this year, 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed successfully gained asylum after she documented her attempts to resist deportation to Saudi Arabia from Thailand in a viral Twitter campaign. Mohammed has credited publicity and social media for ultimately securing her asylum in Canada.
Saudi women who flee need refugee status ensured by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to be protected from deportation.
Nearly 150 countries sign up to the UN agreement on protecting refugees, including Georgia.
Once they have got refugee status from the UNHCR, they can begin arranging permanent asylum in a new country.
A Saudi rights activist working closely with the sisters told INSIDER that the women were safe and well as of Wednesday morning.
INSIDER understands the girls have made contact with the UNHCR, and were urged to apply for asylum in Georgia by the organisation.
The sisters say they’re fleeing “oppression from our family” and say the law in Saudi Arabia is “too weak to protect us.”
On Wednesday, they tweeted: “We are in danger. We need your support to deliver our voice. We want protection. We want a country to welcomes us and protects our rights. Please help us. Saudi government has canceled our passports. We are now in Georgia.”
we are two Saudi sisters who fled from Saudi Arabia seeking asylum. Yet, the family and the Saudi government have suspended our passports and now we are trapped in Georgia country. We need your help please.
— georgia sisters (@GeorgiaSisters) April 16, 2019
The women say their father and brothers have arrived in Georgia, and are searching for them.
Phil Robertson, the Deputy Asia Director for Human Rights Watch,tweeted to say he had brought the sisters’ situation to the attention of the organisation’s Middle East branch.
The punishment for running away in Saudi Arabia is severe.
In April 2017, 24-year-old Dina Ali Lasloom fled the country, only to be stopped in the Philippines and taken on a plane back to Saudi Arabia by her uncle.
She has not been seen or heard from since.
INSIDER has contacted the UNHRC for comment, but has so far recieved no reply.
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