03/26/2019, 16.05
SAUDI ARABIA - HONG KONG
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Saudi sisters fleeing to freedom: in Riyadh women "like slaves"

After spending six months hiding in Hong Kong, they have now found shelter in a third country. So far they changed 15 hiding places and were also hosted by a nun. The fear of being captured, repatriated and killed. Their story is a source of "hope" for other women victims of repression and abuse. Male guardianship under the spotlight.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – “We wish for our story to offer hope to others who face similar situations. We want to say loud and clear to the Saudi authorities and other regimes which treat women unequally: never underestimate the strength of brave women". This is what two young Saudi women (Rawan and Reem their fictional names) tell Reuters after having fled the country to escape family violence and possible death for abandoning the Islamic faith.

For over six months the two sisters aged 18 and 20 have lived in Hong Kong, hoping for a visa for Australia. During this time they changed 15 houses, were also received by a nun and a center for abused women, to escape from the Riyadh intelligence forces and their families trying to repatriate them.

The operators of an NGO that followed their story confirm that, last week, the two young women left the governorate for a third country - kept hidden for security reasons - where they will be able to rebuild their lives. Now "I am safe and well". Before leaving, from the 22nd floor of a Hong Kong hotel room they told their personal story, in the hope that it could be an example and give courage to women victims of violence in the Wahhabi kingdom.

In their story, the two girls have words of harsh criticism for the controversial law on male guardianship, according to which every woman must receive the consent of a man - father, husband, brother or son if widows - even just to work, study or receive medical care. "Women are like slaves," says the older sister, whose dream is to become a writer one day. "I just want to stop and feel safe, to know that I have rights and I count for something. Just living a normal life, discovering myself ... now I am the master of my life! ".

Their story recalls in many respects that of 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, whom the UN granted refugee status as well as finding shelter and refuge  - after days barricaded in a hotel in Bangkok's international airport - in Canada. The two sisters for a long time feared capture and repatriation to Saudi Arabia, where - most likely - they would face very harsh violence, if not death for apostasy.

Their only desire today is to look at a "beautiful, shining future", far from a society and a family that they call "repressive". The escape dates back to last September, during a holiday to Sri Lanka, followed by months of fears and timid hopes in Hong Kong, the penultimate stage to Australia considered at first the final destination of their journey to freedom.

At the end of the interview, the two sisters tell of having followed the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed last October 2 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. A dark story, behind which there would be direct responsibilities of the leadership of Riyadh and the crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (Mbs). "I told my sister: I'm glad I left. This is the country we abandoned," says the eldest of the two, who considers the novel by George Orwell 1984 among her favorites," It's a science fiction book - she concludes - but what it tells is all true in Saudi Arabia ".

The Saudi consulate in the governorate declined to comment on the story.

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