Women across Saudi Arabia have become inspired by a teenager who fled the country, seeking asylum in Australia out of fear that she would be killed by her family. The women are demanding reforms, including an end to the country’s guardianship system, or they say that they will also will leave the country.
The threat of emigration started trending on social media after 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun was detained in Thailand after escaping her relatives in Kuwait. Rahaf barricaded herself in a hotel at Thailand’s Suvarnabhumi Airport and broadcast her fears to the world. The U.N. Refugee Agency intervened, recommending her for asylum in Australia. Subsequently, an Arabic-language hashtag meaning “remove the guardianship system or we’ll all migrate” began trending on social media in Saudi Arabia.
Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman has eased some restrictions on women’s behavior, including allowing women to drive legally for the first time, but the guardianship system, which treats women as legal minors and requires them to get male guardians’ permission to travel, marry and more, remains intact. In 2017, Human Rights Watch called the guardianship system the most “significant impediment to realizing women’s rights in the country.”
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