In Saudi Arabia, fleeing even an abusive home is a crime for women. Their male relatives wield vast power under the kingdom’s guardianship system, which prohibits women from running away from male guardians, including fathers and husbands, and gives those relatives control over their ability to obtain passports and travel. If runaways are caught, they can be jailed until their guardian allows them to be released.
Guardianship can be particularly onerous for women who are divorced, widowed or who delay marriage. Some mothers are forced to defer to their sons as guardians
But Saudi women are increasingly risking imprisonment to flee, not just within the country, but overseas as well. They are coordinating those efforts with a network of supporters via social media, sometimes arranging marriages, vacations and study-abroad programs as a cover.
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