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

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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
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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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)

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FIFA World Cup 2018: Indian Cuisine becomes the most sought after in Moscow

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Indian cuisine in FIFA World cup
Indian dishes available in Moscow during FIFA World Cup 2018, representational image, wikimedia commons

June 17, 2018:

Restaurateurs Prodyut and Sumana Mukherjee have not only brought Indian cuisine to the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018 here but also plan to dish out free dinner to countrymen if Argentina wins the trophy on July 15.

Based in Moscow for the last 27 years, Prodyut and Sumana run two Indian eateries, “Talk Of The Town” and “Fusion Plaza”.

You may like to read more on Indian cuisine: Indian ‘masala’, among other condiments spicing up global food palate.

Both restaurants serve popular Indian dishes like butter chicken, kebabs and a varied vegetarian spread.

During the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

The Mukherjees, hailing from Kolkata, are die-hard fans of Argentina. Despite Albiceleste drawing 1-1 with Iceland in their group opener with Lionel Messi failing to sparkle, they believe Jorge Sampaoli’s team can go the distance.

“I am an Argentina fan. I have booked tickets for a quarterfinal match, a semifinal and of course the final. If Argentina goes on to lift

During the World Cup, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia
FIFA World Cup 2018, Wikimedia Commons.

“We have been waiting for this World Cup. Indians come in large numbers during the World Cup and we wanted these eateries to be a melting point,” he added.

According to Cutting Edge Events, FIFA’s official sales agency in India for the 2018 World Cup, India is amongst the top 10 countries in terms of number of match tickets bought.

Read more about Indian cuisine abroad: Hindoostane Coffee House: London’s First Indian Restaurant.

Prodyut came to Moscow to study engineering and later started working for a pharmaceutical company here before trying his hand in business. Besides running the two restaurants with the help of his wife, he was into the distribution of pharmaceutical products.

“After Russia won the first match of the World Cup, the footfall has gone up considerably. The Indians are also flooding in after the 6-9 p.m. game. That is the time both my restaurants remain full,” Prodyut said.

There are also plans to rope in registered fan clubs of Latin American countries, who will throng the restaurants during matches and then follow it up with after-game parties till the wee hours.

“I did get in touch with some of the fan clubs I had prior idea about. They agreed to come over and celebrate the games at our joints. Those will be gala nights when both eateries will remain open all night for them to enjoy,” Prodyut said.

Watching the World Cup is a dream come true for the couple, Sumana said.

“We want to make the Indians who have come here to witness the spectacle and feel at home too. We always extend a helping hand and since we are from West Bengal, we make special dishes for those who come from Bengal,” she added. (IANS)