Some People are Victims of Circumstance
In some places, people are still victims of circumstance. In fact, one of the largest national newspapers published an article entitled “Saudi Arabia: 10 Reasons Why Women Flee”. It’s about a political system that allows men to control women’s lives.
To some extent, the character of any action towards a victim depends on its circumstances. Some people have no other choice but to cast aside their interests by impositions that emanate from their environment. The same fact – under the same circumstances, but in different countries – lead them to change the outcome. It’s discouraging to see that such disparate realities coexist at the same time in different spaces.
“When we succumb to believing that we are victims of our circumstances and yield to the plight of determinism, we lose hope, drive, and we settle into resignation and stagnation.”
In some places, people are victims of circumstance
Saudi Rahaf Mohammed, a young woman huddled in the Bangkok airport hotel, implored help through Twitter. She asked the pertinent authorities to keep her away from her father and brother, from whom she had escaped hours earlier. “They’ll kill me,” she stated. She was scared.
Rahaf wasn’t fleeing from war or misery, but from the rules that continue to take away the freedom of women in Saudi Arabia. This still occurs despite the reforms announced since the coming to power of King Salman and his son Mohamed four years earlier.
After sharing her photo and passport, Rahaf said she was tired of the restrictions imposed on her at home. She denounced being locked up in a room by her mother for six months as punishment for having cut her hair. Also, she no longer wanted to use a hijab, and she didn’t want to pray or be Muslim. She had no choice, though.
She was coming back from a family vacation in Kuwait and wanted to stay in Australia and apply for asylum. Her father, a man with many connections, enlisted the help of Saudi diplomats in Bangkok, where Rahaf had to change planes after noticing her absence. They took away her passport and were planning on sending her back on the next flight. They didn’t realize that she was 18 and legally considered an adult.
Rahaf isn’t the first young woman to flee an oppressive family; it happens in many countries. However, only in Saudi Arabia are women constrained for life to the authority of the men of their family due to a guardianship system that, according to experts, is the most restrictive in the Islamic world. This is because it reduces women to the status of a minor for life.
Victims of circumstance – human rights have no nationality
This young woman’s situation unleashed a mobilization of feminists and human rights activists and well-meaning people from around the world on social networks.
Many recalled the case of Dina Ali, a 24-year-old teacher who only two years earlier was trying to reach Australia for reasons similar to Rahaf’s. The Philippine authorities intercepted her when she stopped in Manila. Then, they handed her over to two men who introduced themselves as her uncles. They forcibly embarked her on a flight back to Riyadh and nobody ever heard from her again. The story shouldn’t repeat.
Rahaf’s case is a symptom of the situation of women in Saudi Arabia and the country in general. Despite the social and economic reforms, Saudi women remain unprotected due to the guardianship system. This means that many are still struggling to exercise their basic rights in circumstances that suffocate them. At least according to Dana Ahmed, a researcher at Amnesty International.
Rahaf Al Qunun traveled to Bangkok fearing her relatives would kill her for wanting to separate herself from Islam. Thanks to people fighting for human rights around the world, and specifically to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), she was able to travel to Canada, where she’s been granted more than just asylum. The circumstances of a victim will remain unpredictable in her new life, but at least she’ll be able to decide on her own how to deal with them.