Saudi sisters seek asylum after fleeing abusive family during holiday in Turkey

Two Saudi sisters fled their abusive father during a holiday in Turkey after their family tried to force the elder sister into an arranged marriage, the sisters told BBC Türkçe’s Mark Lowen in a filmed interview on Aug. 8.

Dalal and Dua al-Showaiki told Lowen they feared for their lives and were seeking asylum in any country that would accept them.

“My father, if he caught me the same day as I escaped from the hotel, of course he will kill me,” said 22-year-old Dua.
The sisters made their escape when their family came to Istanbul on June 10. Their father had locked them in their hotel room, but they managed to escape when he opened the door to use the bathroom, they told Canadian public broadcaster CBC in an interview on July 30.

When they spoke to CBC, the sisters were staying in their 11th safe house since their escape. They told the Canadian broadcaster they believed their father would “never stop looking for us, so he can clear the shame” of his daughters’ escape.

Dua said she first considered making her escape after she was kicked out of university for being gay. When her parents learned about her sexuality, they began pressuring their daughter to marry.

“They think if I marry a man, I will change my sexuality. So, they always put pressure on me to get married, but I always refuse, and they beat me,” she said.

Dua said her father had tried to marry her to a friend who already had two wives and children. “I told him I don’t want to marry an old man,” she said.

Dalal said during an interview with the New Arab on June 14 that she had been sexually abused by her brother and raped by a member of Saudi Arabia’s religious virtue police. 

The young women’s father told the BBC their claims were totally false.

But the sisters said they still felt frightened and were seeking a home in another country.

“I just want to feel safe. Any country that will accept us, we will go, of course,” said Dalal.

The sisters had been documenting their escape on social media, but Twitter has suspended their accounts, the Insider reported in June. 

Twitter did not comment on the reason for blocking the accounts, but the Detained in Dubai campaign group said it might have been the result of “malicious complaints” lodged against them by family members.

The sisters’ escape follows the dramatic flight of another Saudi woman, Rahaf Mohammed, who escaped her family after barricading herself in a hotel room in Thailand and making a call for help over social media in January. 

Mohammed settled in Canada after the country granted her asylum.

Homosexuality is punishable by death according to Saudi law. Women’s rights are also severely curtailed under a male guardianship system that, according to Human Rights Watch, places a woman’s life under the complete control of a male relative from her birth until her death.