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Saudi women seek asylum in U.S. to escape male guardianship

By WITW Staff on January 19, 2017

Arwa first came to the United States from Saudi Arabia as a student. After returning home to Saudi Arabia to work, Arwa said that questioning the restrictions imposed on women in Saudi culture began to alienate her from her parents. Under the male guardianship system, Arwa needed permission from her father to legally travel, marry, and access health care. Two years ago, against the wishes of her father, she fled Saudi Arabia and returned to the U.S. once more – this time to apply for asylum.

It wasn’t only Saudi Arabia that Arwa left behind, but Islam as well. Among the documents that Arwa included in her asylum application was a copy of a Saudi newspaper detailing how she and two others had been declared apostates. “The punishment for [apostasy] can be death,” the article noted. CNN asked the Saudi government if women who renounced Islam, such as Arwa, should be afraid to return home. They received no response.

One day before finding out whether her plea for asylum would be granted, Arwa reflected on what it would mean should she have to go back to Saudi Arabia. “What really scares me is that I wouldn’t get this asylum and I would be returned and I would die young,” said Arwa, “and that I would lose everything that I tried to build, that I would just fail.”

Read the full story at CNN.


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