Just days after Canada granted refuge to Rahaf al-Qunun, an 18-year-old Saudi woman fleeing her family for fear of abuse and even death, another Saudi woman is seeking protection from her father on social media.
The National Post reports that the woman is known as Nojoud al-Mandeel on Twitter.
She has not revealed her face or left Saudi Arabia. Like Al-
Aya Batrawy of the National Post writes that while some say Al-Qunun’s successful escape might inspire others to do the same, there are still powerful deterrents. For instance, if a woman is caught trying to escape, she might face death at the hands of her family for shaming them.
In Saudi Arabia, there is a severe honour culture in which the honour of men and the rest of the family is tied to the actions of female family members. Men also have guardianship over women’s lives, and women must obey their fathers, husbands, and brothers.
Like the monarchical political system in Saudi Arabia, the system of guardianship demands absolute obedience.
Hala Aldosari, a Saudi scholar and activist said that “This is why the state is keen to maintain the authority of male citizens over women to ensure their allegiance… hierarchical system of domination [necessitates] keeping women in line.”
While Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is in favour of providing more freedom to women, he said that revoking the guardianship laws has to be done in a way that does not damage family relations and Saudi culture.
All women in Saudi Arabia must have the consent of a male guardian in order to travel. Saudi men can even download a government app that notifies them when a woman in their family is traveling, and through which they can grant or deny permission. Some women have escaped the country by disabling these notifications on their fathers’ phones.
Al-Qunun said that she is lucky to have escaped: “I am one of the lucky ones… I know there are unlucky women who disappeared after trying to escape or who could not change their reality.”
Al-Qunun had recently barricaded herself in an airport hotel room in Thailand to avoid being deported. She said she was abused by one of her brothers and locked in her room for months for cutting her hair short. She claims that she would have been killed if she had returned to her family.
The government of Saudi Arabia has released statistics according to which at least 577 women tried to escape their homes in 2015.