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Saudi activist helps women flee oppressive 'kingdom of fear'

Saudi Arabia adheres to strict gender segregation and an austere vision of Islam [Twitter]

Date of publication: 20 October, 2017

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A Saudi activist has dedicated his life to helping Saudi women flee the ultraconservative kingdom and seek refuge in Western countries.

A Saudi activist has dedicated his life to helping Saudi women flee the ultraconservative kingdom and seek refuge in Western countries.

Taleb al-Abdulmohsen told The New Arab in a report published on Wednesday about his efforts to free women from what he called the "kingdom of fear".

Abdulmohsen described his childhood growing up in the eastern province of al-Ahsa, where the majority of the country's oppressed Shia minority lives.

"I was used to hearing stories of arbitrary arrests and midnight raids, in which police would break down doors and storm into bedrooms," he said.

"Any criticism of the government or even speaking about your sect of Islam could lead to you being imprisoned and tortured. I think this situation planted the seed of a silent revolution in the heart of every Saudi."

The 44-year-old, who now identifies as an ex-Muslim, began writing about human rights abuses under a pseudonym in 2012, four years later he decided it was time to come out publicly.

He sought political asylum in Germany and now dedicates his time to helping Saudi women escape the web of societal barriers they face.

"I was surprised by the large number of Saudis who wanted to seek asylum and were asking me about the process so I have allocated the bulk of my activism to this," Abdulmohsen said.

"I have directly helped over 1,000 Saudi women and much more than that indirectly. The majority of these oppressed Saudi women call the country a 'grave'," he added.

Saudi women have recently hailed the news they will be able to drive their own cars from next June, but they still face many restrictions.

Chief among those is the guardianship system, which requires a woman to get permission from a male family member for some of the most important and even mundane decisions of her life.

Abdulmohsen explained that once women flee the country, which adheres to strict gender segregation and an austere vision of Islam, authorities continue to pursue them.

"Saudi embassies abroad go after refugees and attempt to lure them back with false promises. When they return they are often arrested," he explained.

In April, fleeing Saudi woman Dina Ali Lasloom was returned to Saudi Arabia against her will while in transit in the Philippines and has since not been heard from.

"The picture is undoubtedly bleak, this only boosts our determination to expose the crimes of the Saudi regime and demand its condemnation internationally," Abdulmohsen said.

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