Wednesday November 13, 2019
Home World Matter of Lif...

Matter of Life and Death! Young Saudi Woman’s Plea for Help Exposes Risks related to Runaways from mostly Male Relatives

0
//
A young Saudi woman's plea for help after she was stopped in an airport in the Philippines en route to Australia where she planned to seek asylum has triggered a firestorm on social media and drawn attention to the plight of Saudi females fleeing repressive male relatives. VOA

A young Saudi woman’s plea for help after she was stopped in an airport in the Philippines en route to Australia where she planned to seek asylum has triggered a firestorm on social media and drawn attention to the plight of female runaways.

For runaway Saudi women, fleeing can be a matter of life and death, and they are almost always doing so to escape male relatives.

Under Saudi Arabia’s conservative interpretation of Islamic law, a male guardianship system bars women from traveling abroad, obtaining a passport, marrying or even leaving prison without the consent of a male relative.

NewsGram brings to you current foreign news from all over the world.

The mystery around what triggered Dina Ali Lasloom’s cry for help has only added to concerns for her safety. In an online video, the 24-year-old says her passport was taken from her at an airport in the Philippines on her way to Australia last week.

“If my family come, they will kill me. If I go back to Saudi Arabia, I will be dead. Please help me,” she pleads.

Wearing a beige coat, the woman does not show her face in the video. Most women in Saudi Arabia cover their face with a veil known as a niqab. Many do so believing it is a religious obligation, in addition to covering their hair and body. Some also cover their faces due to social pressure.

“I am kept here as a criminal. I can’t do anything,” Lasloom says in the video. The Associated Press could not independently verify the video’s authenticity.

Women’s rights advocates in Saudi Arabia say Lasloom was ultimately forced to board a plane to the kingdom with two of her uncles, who flew from Riyadh to stop her. They said authorities then took her to a women’s shelter because of the attention around her case.

NewsGram brings to you top news around the world today.

She cannot leave, however, without a male guardian’s permission. Activists say only officials and relatives can contact her there.

Although there are no public statistics on how many Saudi women attempt to flee abroad, the issue has gained attention through a number of publicized cases. This despite gains made in recent years for Saudi women, including the right to run in, and vote in, local elections in 2015, and a government effort to increase women’s participation in the workforce.

Women who have managed to flee abroad say they were barred from marrying or forced into marriages. Others have told rights groups that male relatives were abusive and confiscated their salaries.

Check out NewsGram for latest international news updates.

“Many of them, they just want to be free,” said Moudi Aljohani, who fled last year and is seeking asylum in the U.S.

Aljohani, 26, says her family felt she’d become “too Americanized” after a year of study in Miami. What was supposed to be a weeklong visit home turned into months of confinement, she says.

“The eight months of being locked in Saudi Arabia has created an angry, rebellious person inside of me that I don’t want to be silent anymore,” she said. “What happened to me in Saudi Arabia created a person who just wants to speak out.”

For the past 15 years, four of the late King Abdullah’s daughters, Princesses Jawaher, Sahar, Hala and Maha – all in their 40s – have allegedly been held in a royal compound in Saudi Arabia. Their mother, who lives in London, has spoken out in the British press to try and bring attention to their plight. Two of the princesses managed to release videos in recent years pleading for help.

Saudi courts have heard numerous cases of women asking for a transfer of their guardianship to more sympathetic male relatives – in some cases to their own sons.

A Saudi women’s rights activist reached by phone in Riyadh said Lasloom was apparently trying to flee relatives in Kuwait who threatened to send her to live in Saudi Arabia.

“There have been a lot of Saudi girls who sought asylum abroad, but now it’s a trend. A lot of younger girls in their 20s are seeking asylum,” she said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

“When they say honor killings do not exist, it’s not true. It’s just invisible,” she said, referring to the killing of daughters in the name of family honor.

Sara Leah Whitson, the Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, says Saudi women fleeing their family can face so-called “honor” violence if returned against their will. She called on Saudi authorities to protect Lasloom from her family.

According to the Philippines’ Inquirer news website, Lasloom was barred from her Australian-bound flight by Saudi Embassy officials in Manila who asked airport officials to stop her.

The Saudi Embassy in the Philippines wrote on Twitter that what occurred was “a family matter in which a girl was returned with her family to the homeland.”

When asked by The Associated Press whether Saudi diplomats in the Philippines had requested that authorities in Manila stop Lasloom from boarding a flight to Australia, Foreign Ministry official Osama Nugali said: “Saudi embassies abroad respect the institutions and laws of host countries and do not interfere in their affairs.”

Manila Airport General Manager Eddie Monreal told the AP he had no knowledge about the case. An immigration official reached by the AP said the airport’s immigration officers neither detained nor held any passenger under that name.

In Saudi Arabia, activists tracking her plea for help attempted to meet Lasloom at Riyadh airport overnight Wednesday. They say instead, another activist, Alaa al-Anazi was detained by security officials at the airport and transferred to a girl’s detention center in the capital.

The Interior Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A Human Rights Watch report released last year on guardianship laws in Saudi Arabia found that even with greater opportunities for women in the kingdom, a woman’s life rests largely on “the good will” of her male guardian.

Powerful clerics in the kingdom support male guardianship based on a verse in the Quran that says men are the protectors and maintainers of women. Other Islamic scholars argue this misinterprets fundamental Quranic concepts like equality and respect between the sexes. Most Muslim-majority countries do not have similarly restrictive guardianship laws. (VOA)

Next Story

U.S. Asylum-Seekers Expand to Another Mexican Border City

Lucia Ascencio of Venezuela had waited for three months in Nuevo Laredo with her husband and two young sons

0
US, Asylum, Mexican
Lucia Ascencio of Venezuela, her husband and their two sons, arrive back to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, as part of the first group of migrants to be returned to Tamaulipas state as part of a program for U.S. asylum-seekers, July 9, 2019. VOA

The so-called Remain in Mexico program for U.S. asylum-seekers expanded to another Mexican border city Tuesday with the arrival of a first group of migrants to Nuevo Laredo.

The 10 migrants had crossed the border to seek U.S. asylum Monday and will now have to wait in Mexico as their applications are processed.

Lucia Ascencio of Venezuela had waited for three months in Nuevo Laredo with her husband and two young sons just for the chance to make her asylum petition in Laredo, Texas. She was stunned by her return to Mexico as they walked from the bridge carrying plastic bags containing a bottle of water, a bottle of juice and an orange.

“We hadn’t thought that they were going to send us back,” she said. Her family was given a date in September to return for the next step in their process.

US, Asylum, Mexican
The so-called Remain in Mexico program for U.S. asylum-seekers expanded to another Mexican border city Tuesday. Pixabay

A spokeswoman with Mexico’s immigration agency confirmed that the first group of 10 returned Tuesday. U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials did not immediately comment.

The U.S. program, known formally as the Migrant Protection Protocols, acts as a deterrent for applicants who previously were released into the U.S. with notices to appear in court.

The program was already operating in the Mexican border cities of Tijuana, Mexicali and Ciudad Juarez. More than 18,000 mostly Central American migrants had been returned to those cities through the first week in July, according Mexican officials.

Nuevo Laredo is in Tamaulipas state, which the U.S. State Department warns Americans not to visit due to kidnappings and other crimes.

Also Read- Unconstitutional for President Donald Trump to Block Critics on Twitter

The program’s expansion to Tamaulipas was announced after the U.S. and Mexico reached an agreement to avert threatened tariffs on Mexican exports last month.

The state is notorious for violent drug cartels that have controlled its border cities. But its long shared border with Texas also includes the busiest sector for U.S. Border Patrol’s migrant apprehensions.

Migrant shelters in cities along Mexico’s northern border have been swamped for months. Like Ascencio, migrants who want to apply for U.S. asylum wait for months to get the opportunity. The Remain in Mexico cities are even more affected because the migrants are sent back to wait for a process that could last more than a year.

At the Casa AMAR migrant shelter in Nuevo Laredo, director Aaron Mendez said there was already a “humanitarian crisis” that the shelter lacked the resources to deal with.”If they could have 50 shelters here in the city it still wouldn’t be enough,” Mendez said. Authorities had originally said 150 to 200 migrants could be returned to Nuevo Laredo daily.

 

US, Asylum, Mexican
The 10 migrants had crossed the border to seek U.S. asylum Monday and will now have to wait in Mexico. Pixabay

On Monday, Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said that 327 migrants awaiting U.S. asylum hearings had found jobs in northern Mexico and that companies had offered 3,700 positions.

The federal government has pledged to assist border cities in accommodating the migrants, but details have been few and local shelters complain that the new government of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has actually cut funding that they had received to support migrants. Ebrard said they had arranged with 16 shelters to provide places for migrants to stay, but that would only meet a fraction of the need.

Also Read- As Venezuela’s Healthcare Collapses, Women and Girls Dying Needlessly

Several civil rights organizations in the U.S. have sued the government over the Migrant Protection Protocols. Many migrants say they fear that staying in some Mexican border cities could jeopardize their personal safety. (VOA)