Saudi Runaway Sisters Apply for Asylum in Georgia After Kingdom Suspends Their Passports

Maha and Wafa al-Subaie, who fled the kingdom and say their lives are at risk if they return, had been stranded in Tsbili where they have been calling for international help

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A photo sisters Maha al-Subaie, 28, and Wafa al-Subaie, 25, posted on Twitter after arriving in Georgia.
A photo sisters Maha al-Subaie, 28, and Wafa al-Subaie, 25, posted on Twitter after arriving in Georgia. Credit: Screenshot/Al Sadara News

Two Saudi sisters who fled their country and appealed for international protection earlier this week saying their lives would be at risk if they were to return to the conservative kingdom are applying for asylum in Georgia.

Immigration authorities in the former Soviet republic visited the siblings on Thursday in their temporary apartment in Tbilisi, providing them with information on how to apply for asylum in the country, the Georgian interior ministry said.

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“The purpose of the visit of law enforcement officers was to offer assistance and security guarantees to the women,” a ministry spokeswoman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a statement.

The sisters, identified as Maha al-Subaie, 28, and Wafa al-Subaie, 25, took to Twitter on Wednesday saying they had arrived in Georgia and needed help from the international community to find a new country to call home.

The case is the latest to draw attention to Saudi Arabia’s strict social rules, which force women to obtain the permission of a male “guardian” if they want to work, marry or travel.

Rights groups say the system can trap women and girls as prisoners of abusive families, and the sisters are not the first Saudi women to seek urgent refuge outside their homeland.

Earlier this year, a Saudi teen who had holed up in a Thai airport hotel to escape her family won asylum in Canada.

And in 2017, a Saudi woman who had sought asylum in Australia, saying she feared violence from relatives, was stopped on a layover in the Philippines and returned to Riyadh.

The sisters said they had become stranded in Georgia after the Saudi government suspended their passports and they feared for their lives, as members of their family had come looking for them.

But on Thursday the interior ministry said there were no relatives in the country who posed a danger to them.

It added the pair had agreed to visit the ministry’s office dealing with asylum requests.

The Saudi Embassy in Tbilisi did not immediately reply to a request for comment.