A fleeing Saudi woman faces grave risks after being returned to Saudi Arabia against her will while in transit in the Philippines, Human Rights Watch said in a report it released on Thursday (April 13, 2017). Saudi authorities should ensure that Dina Ali Lasloom, 24, is not subjected to violence from her family or prosecution by Saudi authorities for trying to flee, the international organization pointed out.
According to Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, “Saudi women fleeing their family or the country can face so-called ‘honor’ violence or other serious harm if returned against their will.” Whitson highlighted that “Saudi authorities should immediately protect this woman from her family to ensure she’s not subjected to violence and should not punish her for fleeing.”
“The Philippine government should fully investigate this incident and hold any of their officials who failed to protect Dina Ali Lasloom accountable, as required by international law,” Whitson stressed.
The Saudi authorities should disclose whether Lasloom is with her family or held by the state, Human Rights Watch said. If held by the state, the authorities should disclose under what conditions she is being held, including whether she is at a shelter at her request and whether she has freedom of movement and ability to contact the outside world. State shelter facilities in Saudi Arabia are used both to detain women and to provide protection for those fleeing abuse, and may require a male relative to agree to their release.
The international watchdog warned Lasloom is at serious risk of harm if returned to her family. She also faces possible criminal charges, in violation of her basic rights, for “parental disobedience,” which can result in punishments ranging from being returned to a guardian’s home to imprisonment, and for “harming the reputation of the kingdom” for her public cries for help.
“Saudi women face systematic discrimination every day, and Lasloom’s case shows that fleeing abroad may not protect them from abuses,” Whitson concluded.