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Saudi sisters hope for “bright future” after leaving Hong Kong for third country

The sisters fled from their family last September while on holiday in Sri Lanka and have been stranded in Hong Kong after an aborted attempt to get to Australia, where they had hoped to secure asylum.

For safety reasons, the sisters, aged 18 and 20, who say they were beaten by their father and brothers, asked that their names and faces not be revealed, nor the country to which they have now gone.

“I have no regrets at all,” the curly-haired younger sister who goes by the name of “Rawan” told Reuters last Wednesday (March 20), and added that she felt happy when told that asylum had been secured.

Her 20-year-old older sister who goes by the alias “Reem” said she was looking forward to leaving her old life behind, in the hopes of continuing her studies and becoming a writer.

“I want to settle down and to feel safe, and that I know that I have right(s) and I matter in that country. And just to live normal, and to discover myself.”

The sisters spoke to Reuters at a Hong Kong hotel shortly before they left the city. Hong Kong-based rights lawyer, Michael Vidler, who has been helping them, attended.

They said they have lived in fear for six months, shuttling between 15 safe houses, staying with a nun, families and at a shelter for abused women. They feared being intercepted by Saudi officials or relatives and forced home, where they believe they could be punished for renouncing Islam, which is punishable by death under the Saudi system of Islamic law. They were also critical of Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship system, under which women must have permission from a male relative to work, travel, marry, and even get some medical treatment.

(Production: Yuyang Wang, Martin Pollard)

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