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Asia-Pacific

Saudi sisters granted stay in Georgia while applying for asylum: HRW

media Mahal al-Subaie, 28 and Wafa al-Subaie, 25 are currently awaiting help in Georgia @GeorgiaSisters

Two Saudi sisters who fled to Georgia to escape what they say are oppressive lives in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to seek asylum in the country, according to a Georgian government statement given to international non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch.

In their statement, the Georgian authorities “indicat[e] the two sisters will seek asylum in Georgia. Since Georgia has ratified the UN Refugee Convention, the government itself will do the refugee status determination and provide protection,” according to Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director for Human Rights Watch.

As you read here first on the RFI website, sisters Mahal al-Subaie, 28 and Wafa al-Subaie, 25 had fled to Georgia, seeking asylum, but asked for help directly on social media after they had posted that the Saudi government had canceled their passports and their father and brothers were in Georgia, looking for them.

“We would like to clarify, that family members, to whom Al-Subaie sisters are referring as posing a risk for them, are not in Georgia at the moment,” said the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs letter, seen by RFI.

“We do not have any way to determine that, one way or another, but if the relatives are not there – well, that is certainly a good thing,” said Robertson.

“The great fear is the Saudi Arabian government, working with the family, will use its influence to try and reacquire these women and force them back into harm’s way in Saudi,” he added.

The Interior Ministry letter pointed out that the sisters were visited by Georgian law enforcement staff who offered assistance, but they initially did not want to seek asylum within Georgia.

“After the Al-Subaie sisters received the information and certain clarifications from Migration Department, they agreed to visit the Division on Refugee Issues of the Migration Department to undergo necessary procedures on asylum seeking as stipulated by Georgian legislation,” according to the letter.

According to the Georgian government, they will be allowed to apply for asylum, but this does not erase the fear for other women who want to leave the Kingdom.

“No one should forget the core problem is Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship laws which place women at the mercy of rights abusing men and authorities,” said Robertson.

“As long as these discriminatory, rights violating laws and policies remain in force in Saudi Arabia, more women will try to flee to gain their freedom and rights.”

 
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