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Saudi women are demanding reforms after a teen fled country in fear for her life

  • 11 January 2019
  • Author: QT01
  • Number of views: 1118
Saudi women are demanding reforms after a teen fled country in fear for her life
Women across Saudi Arabia, inspired by a teenager who fled the country to seek asylum in Australia amid fears that she would be killed by her family, are demanding further reforms — including an end to the male-dominated guardianship system — or else they will leave the country, they say, a report in has said.
The emigration threats began trending on social media in the days since 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun was detained in Thailand on Saturday after escaping her relatives in Kuwait. Stripped of her passport and told she would be deported, Rahaf barricaded herself in a hotel at Thailand’s Suvarnabhumi Airport and broadcast her fears to the world. The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) intervened, and on Wednesday recommended her for asylum in Australia.
The impact of Rahaf’s shrewd use of social media—and the international support she was able to muster—was underscored by a Saudi diplomat’s lament, captured on video and shared by the teenager as she awaited news of her fate. “I wish they could have taken her phone, rather than her passport,” he could be heard saying.
In the days since, an Arabic language hashtag that roughly translates as “remove the guardianship system or we’ll all migrate” has trended on social media in Saudi Arabia, a country notorious for cracking down on dissent. “Mark my words, [Rahaf] is going to start a revolution in Saudi Arabia,” Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy said on a video posted to Twitter on Jan. 7, adding that the guardianship system is “the foundation of patriarchy in Saudi Arabia.” Like many other users, Eltahawy appended some of her tweets with the migration threat hashtag.
Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, known as MBS, has eased some restrictions on women’s behaviors, including allowing women to drive legally for the first time. But Saudi Arabia’s guardianship system, which treats women as legal minors and requires them to get male guardians’ permission to travel, marry and more, remains intact. Human Rights Watch in 2017 called Saudi Arabia’s guardianship system the most “significant impediment to realizing women’s rights in the country.”
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