The story of a girl who planned her escape a whole year.


Shahad al-Mohammed is one of the few women who managed to escape from her family in Saudi Arabia. The girl shared the difficulties that she encountered on the way, and also spoke about the tracking system, thanks to which most of the runaways quickly manage to return.

Escape night

Shahad al-Mohammed woke up at midnight in a hotel room in Trabzon. Her family chose this Turkish resort because it offers holidays on the coast, but within the framework of the Islamic community.

The girl barefoot snuck into the parents' room and stole their credit cards, keys, passports and, most importantly, mobile phones. This was supposed to delay them and give her extra time. Preparing to escape took her a whole year.

Standing on the road outside the hotel, Shahad al-Mohammed panicked for a second. For the first time in her life, she was alone in the street. And for the first time in ten years, she did not put on a heavy robe that covered her entire body and face.

“I was 17 years old. And I was scared, very, very scared, ”she recalls. “I ran away at midnight when it was dark.” But stronger than darkness, I was afraid of my brother and my parents. ”

Hard past

Up to this point, al-Mohammed spent all 17 years of her life in the constant presence of the accompanying man, as required by the laws of Saudi Arabia. Her life was a chore: awakening, school, home, sleep, time and time again. You cannot talk to any man if it is not a relative, you can not even look at him, because in accordance with the rules of the Quran, this is considered indecent. The girl's father believed that for this you can beat.


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At the same time, her younger brother received $ 1, 600 a month in expenses. And she had to beg for money even for the most necessary, including personal care products.

Al-Mohamid's mother also did not have access to money. She worked, but could not receive payment for her work, since she did not have a personal bank account: the salary was charged to her husband. It is believed that a woman has no right to any tangible property.

Shahad also shared memories of the physical abuse her father applied to her. He often threatened to kill her. If a girl was seen in the company of a young man who was not a member of the family, then they could have been punished by tying up his wrists and ankles. Women have no protection against beatings. Even if the police find out about physical abuse, they always take the side of the man.

Terrible punishment


If a woman who tried to escape is caught, then most likely no one will see her again. Rumor has it that they are being killed for trying to escape.

“If we dare to escape, ” explains al-Mohammed, “we put our own lives at risk. Because if we get caught, the family can kill us. It's a shame to have such a daughter. ”

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But physical restraint of freedom and social pressure is not all. In order to escape, al-Mohamid had to deal with a special system through which fathers can easily track a fugitive. Her father’s phone, the one she stole in Trabzon, gives him access to a government website called Absher.


Thanks to this system, about which few people have heard in the West, but they are well known in Saudi Arabia, women can be prevented from traveling or running away from home without permission. Men can enter information about whether women in the family are allowed to leave the country. Moreover, an SMS message is sent to the man’s phone if she uses her passport when checking in at the airport or when going through customs control.

The reason al-Mohamid was waiting for a holiday in Turkey was because this was the only way she had a chance to escape from Saudi Arabia, where the Absher system is used at all borders. Any attempt to escape would be stopped at the airport as soon as the girl showed her passport. And even if she still managed to fly away, she would have left behind a digital trace, thanks to which it could easily be calculated.

How to bypass the system

Every year thousands of women try to escape from the Middle East. That is why men took care to prevent them. To bypass the Absher system is the most important step for women like al-Mohammed, who decide to leave the country for good.


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How do women try to trick the system when they plan to escape? The only possible way is to steal the phone number of the head of the family, change the password and settings, so that the SMS notification of a passport would be sent not to the man’s phone, but to the girl’s own number. Another way is to change the settings of the Absher system itself, indicating there that it has permission from the guardian to leave the country.

Further difficulties


Let's go back to the story of Shahad. Once on the street, the girl tried to catch a taxi to get to the airport, but there were no cars. Then she walked to the nearest hospital to call the car from there. She hoped that she would be able to fly to Australia or anywhere, if only not to Saudi Arabia. “I only had four hours to leave Turkey, ” al-Mohamid recalls. “Then they had to wake up.”

It took her 20 minutes to get a taxi to the local airport, which serves mainly Turkish regional flights. Only at check-in she found out that there would be no flights until 8 in the morning. It was too late.

But only at a distance of 180 kilometers from the airport passes the border of Turkey with Georgia. In Georgia, a visa is not required for citizens of Saudi Arabia, so this country remained her last hope. She called another taxi and was on the border a couple of hours later.

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The border control has long studied her face and documents. She had to wait 15 minutes, spent beside herself with fear. “It was a matter of life and death, ” recalls the girl. “And when they missed me, I couldn't believe it.”

Shahad went to some city whose name no longer remembers. She had to sleep in a public toilet.

Then al-Mohammed went to Tbilisi - the capital of Georgia. There she rented a room together with one new acquaintance - another refugee. The girl tried to order an Australian visa online. She was denied. At the same time, she knew that the Saudi authorities were already looking for her.

She can't come back

It has now been two years since the memorable escape of al-Mohammed from a Turkish hotel. In Tbilisi, through her new acquaintance, she managed to get in touch with activists for the rights of people. They helped her to get refugee status and move to Sweden. She does not specify her residence for security reasons.

She is now studying and working part-time. Shahad likes Sweden, but she admits that living alone is hard.

But there is no going back for her. Already in 12 years, al-Mohammed tried to see at least some logic in the fact that God could punish her for freedom of thought. “I do not belong to that world, ” she says. - I hate him with all my heart. I have a hard time in Sweden, but at least here I can be myself. And now I can cope with anyone. ”

Shahad fights for women's rights and advises those who want to escape from Saudi Arabia.

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