October 31, 2017
On October 25, a campaign on Twitter emerged to raise awareness of Amnah Aljuaid, a Saudi Arabian woman who posted videos online pleading for help out of fear her father and uncle were going to murder or imprison her because she had planned to runaway from the oppressive male guardianship she lived under in Saudi Arabia.
A Twitter account posted her Saudi licenses and photos of bruises from physical abuse she endured, along with several video clips in English and Arabic from Aljuaid herself. The account claimed that Aljuaid has gone missing, and the videos were posted by friends in an effort to bring attention to what she’s being put through. Human Rights Watch called for authorities to investigate her whereabouts. In Saudi Arabia, women are still bound to male guardianship laws that enable a system of subjugation at the hands of their male family members. Women are legally required to be accompanied by a man or have their explicit permission to conduct several basic public tasks.
Hala Al-Dosari, a Saudi scholar currently based at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute, told me in an interview, “Amna’s case highlights the plight of women who escape abusive families and find themselves without resources to live safely and independently in Saudi Arabia, the wide authority granted to male guardians over women restrict their autonomy and mobility, the situation forcing women to either cope with violent homes or resort to escape without access to resources or protection and thus become vulnerable all over again.”
“Amna Aljuaid has disappeared. This is a video she recorded in case she went missing. Please listen & RT #SaveAmna” tweeted Emmy-Award winning documentary filmmaker and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Deeyah Khan, along with a video of Aljuaid.
In the video, Aljuaid explained, “I believe that something bad’s going to happen to me very soon from my father, and I have no protection.” She cited that it is illegal in Saudi Arabia for a woman to runaway from home, that she has been subjected to domestic abuse from her father and forced to marry her cousin. “I tried to leave outside the country, but I was caught and sent back to Saudi Arabia.” She made the video locked in her home in Riyadh.
“I’m really terrified about the fate of Amna Aljuaid, her videos show a victim seeking help, it shows that she really has no other options and I fear for her safety,” said Moudi Aljohani, a Saudi Women’s Rights activist, in an interview with me. “I hope Saudi Arabia can make real progress in women’s rights instead of making false headline statements about progressing Saudi Arabia. To abolish the male guardian system must be a top priority of reforming.”
Aljuaid is the most recent woman to go viral on social media due to persecution and oppression in Saudi Arabia. Earlier this year, reports on Dina Ali Lasloom‘s story went viral, a Saudi woman who attempted to flee the country to seek refuge in Australia, but was detained by Saudi officials before boarding a connecting flight in the Philippines. In June 2017, Amnesty International reported that one of Saudi Arabia’s leading women’s rights activists, Loujain al-Hathloul, was arrested for an undisclosed reason. She had previously been arrested for driving which was illegal for a woman to do in the country up until September 2017, though its not expected to be enacted until next year.
On May 16, Turkish authorities detained two Saudi Arabian sisters, 18 and 19 years-old, seeking refuge from an abusive family. The hashtag #SaveAshwaqAndAreej emerged on Twitter to raise awareness of their possible deportation back into an abusive home.
Though Saudi Arabia has made efforts to improve their public relations image as a country where oppression and subjugation of women is rampant, women are still treated inhumanely under a society that views them as property.