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Dispatch: When Home Is a Prison, More Saudi Women Are Choosing to Flee When Home Is a Prison, More Saudi Women Ar...
TBILISI, Georgia—The sequence of events that led to Wafa and Maha al-Subaie’s dramatic escape from Saudi Arabia has the makings of a Hollywood tale. Wafa, 25, and Maha, 28, misled their family in order to travel from their isolated hometown in western Saudi Arabia, Ranyah, to the capital, Riyadh, to live with their brother.
They managed to obtain passports in Riyadh without their family’s knowledge, buy plane tickets, and fly from the Saudi capital to Istanbul. On April 1, at the airport in Riyadh, they broke their SIM cards to avoid surveillance. They removed their niqabs, or face veils, to give off the impression that they came from a liberal family to avoid suspicion as to why they were traveling alone. They snapped a selfie. This was the first time the sisters had ever traveled by airplane.
Their goal was to reach the Turkish border with Georgia. Due to rumors of Georgia being conduit to the outside world, and because Saudi citizens don’t need visas to enter Georgia, Maha and Wafa decided to flee there.
From Istanbul, the sisters immediately flew east across Turkey to Trabzon, praying their flight wouldn’t be delayed. It was only a matter of time until their brother would go to pick up the sisters and realize they weren’t where they were supposed to be—Wafa was meant to be teaching at an elementary school, and Maha was to be at an English academy.
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