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#SaveRahaf: Saudi women rekindle calls to end guardianship laws after runaway teenager grabs world's attention Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

#SaveRahaf: Saudi women rekindle calls to end guardianship laws after runaway teenager grabs world's attention

Qanun's case has brought the spotlight back on Saudi Arabia's male guardianship laws [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 January, 2019

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Saudi women have called again for the end of oppressive guardianship laws in the kingdom, following the highly-publicised case of a teenager who fled her family.

Saudi women have reignited calls for the end of oppressive guardianship laws in the wake of a highly-publicised case of a teenager who fled her family and is seeking asylum abroad.

An Arabic-language hashtag meaning "end guardianship laws or else we will all migrate" has gained traction on Twitter in Saudi Arabia since Rahaf al-Qunun's ordeal has made headlines.

The case has brought the spotlight back on Saudi Arabia's male guardianship laws, which require women the consent of a male relative to make decisions such as travelling.

"Instead of promoting tourism and attracting investors, our diplomatic missions chase after runaway girls and then they are surprised by the media's view of the political catastrophes that strike the country," said one Twitter user.

"All we want is the injustice against us to end and to feel a bit of freedom. This will not happen without the end of all the guardianship laws. We will not feel like a nation until the system ends and there is equality between us and men," another user said.

Qunun arrived at the Thai capital's main airport on a flight from Kuwait over the weekend, after running away from her family. She claims she was subjected to physical and psychological abuse by her family.

She said she planned to seek asylum in Australia, fearing she would be killed if repatriated by Thai immigration officials who stopped her at the airport.

The Australian government on Tuesday announced the possibility of granting the young woman refugee status.

The case has also underscored the limits of the reforms being pushed by Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman as he struggles to repair the damage afflicted to his reputation after the grisly killing three months ago of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in Istanbul.

Despite efforts by the Saudi government to curtail the scope of male guardianship laws, women who try to flee their families in Saudi Arabia have few good options inside the kingdom.

They often are pressured to reconcile with their families, sent to shelters where their movement is restricted or face arrest for disobeying their legal guardian.

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