She just goes outside

The BBC has the story of another young woman who escaped Saudi Arabia. (It sounds Dramatic, doesn’t it, but it’s the reality – all women are held prisoner in Saudi Arabia. Some may be lucky enough to have liberal male relatives who don’t use their power to keep women prisoner, but it’s always a matter of luck – the law is that women and girls have no rights without male permission.)

As the debate about women’s rights in the country continues, another young woman who fled Saudi Arabia for Canada has told her story to the BBC.

Salwa, 24, ran away with her 19-year-old sister eight months ago and now lives in Montreal. This, in her own words, is her story.

They’d been planning to leave for six years; it took fiendish cunning on Salwa’s part to make it happen. She stole her brother’s keys to retrieve her passport, she stole her father’s phone and changed the phone number on his account to hers so that when officials tried to call him they would reach her instead. She also used his account to give both of them permission to leave the country.

We left at night while everyone was sleeping. It was very, very, stressful.

We can’t drive so we called a taxi. Fortunately, almost all of the taxi drivers in Saudi Arabia are from foreign countries so they didn’t view us travelling alone as strange.

We headed for King Khalid International Airport near Riyadh. If anyone had noticed what we were doing then I think we would have been killed.

My father called the police when he realised we weren’t at home, but by that time it was too late.

Because I had changed the phone number on his interior ministry account, when the authorities tried to call him they actually called me.

When I landed, I’d even received a message from the police that was meant for my father.

When I arrived in Germany I went to legal aid to find a lawyer for my asylum claim. I filled out some forms and told them my story.

I chose Canada because it has a very good reputation for human rights. I followed the news about the Syrian refugees being resettled there and decided it was the best place for me.

My claim was accepted, and when I landed in Toronto I saw the Canadian flag at the airport and just felt this amazing sense of achievement.

Give me your repressed, your imprisoned women, yearning to breathe free…

I’m in Montreal today with my sister and there’s no stress. No one forces me to do anything here.

They might have more money in Saudi Arabia but here it’s better because when I want to leave my apartment I can just leave. I don’t need consent. I just go outside.

It makes me feel really, really, happy. I feel like I am free. I just wear what I want to wear.


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