Saudi Arabia: #WhereIsDinaAli?

“Please help me”. “I am here. I am real”.

“If I go back to Saudi Arabia I will be dead”. “My family will kill me”.

“If anything happens to me, the Philippine airlines and Saudi government are to be blamed”.

Her voice was fear itself. She knew rather well what would happen to her – she knew – and waited, screaming for help, trapped in a cage, destined for slaughter.

She knew.

And the world watched silently as she was dragged on Tuesday to a plane heading from Philippine to Saudi Arabia.

She was kicking and screaming. Kicking and Screaming. And the men, her male family members, simply dragged her. Dragged her to the plane.

And we watched silently. We watched this happening. A woman dragged against her will - to be slave.

Shame on us.

Dina Ali, 24 years old, a brave Saudi woman, decided she had enough.

She had enough of a system that treats her as a perpetual minor.

She had enough of a system that designates male members of her family as her guardian.

She cannot move, work or live without their permission.

Worse, if her guardian abuses her, she cannot file a complaint because her guardian has to file the complaint!

It is an arbitrary system – you and your luck. If you are born in a ‘good’ family you will survive the systematic legal discrimination. If you are born in a ‘bad’ family, your life will be a living hell.

She said she was abused. And I believe her.

You do not know how many times I listened to Saudi young women calling and writing seeking a way out. Their families abused all of them. Beaten. Hurt. Sexually abused. Forced to be a shadow of a human being. A robot - does what she is being told.

She wanted to be free. Free. Just to be.

How she managed to travel outside Saudi Arabia is a mystery. But she managed and was heading to Australia where she was planning to apply for asylum. Then she was stopped in transit by the Philippine authorities. They confiscated her passport on the request of the Saudi embassy. Waited until ‘the men’ arrived from Saudi Arabia and watched them dragging her to the plane.

The Saudi embassy issued a statement latter saying the matter is private – a private family dispute that was resolved by the family.

And the Philippine authorities succumbed cowardly to the Saudi pressure.

Saudi women activists were roaring. They rushed to her help. Launched a campaign on her behalf – all in vain.

Some of them waited for her in Jeddah airport. Some reported she was rolled off in a wheel chair. One of those activists waiting for her disappeared.

It is not easy to be a women’s rights activist in Saudi Arabia. Just like Iran, challenging the social and religious order is tantamount to challenging the political order.

The Saudi authorities will most likely determine her fate. They will ‘resolve’ the issue by sending her to a ‘women’s prison’ – to ‘protect’ her.

Dina Ali did not commit a crime. She is an adult, who fled her country to live freely.

She should be freed and let to decide her life.

Do not look away.

Do not be indifferent.

Dina Ali needs your support.

Demand to know her whereabouts.

Demand her freedom.

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