The secret departure of two Saudi students to South Korea last week has sparked a heated debate in the ultraconservative kingdom about the status of women there.
The two women disappeared on Thursday and resurfaced later that day in South Korea. It is still unclear how they managed to get on a plane, an act that according to Saudi law requires the approval of their male chaperon. It is estimated that one of them fraudulently got her father’s approval on his mobile phone.
The father said that his daughter showed great interest in South Korea, watched Korean television series and loves travelling. “But I didn’t expect her to run away without permission. Her mother is devastated. I still don’t know why she did it.”
The other student’s brother also said that the reason for their flight was unknown.
Although the investigation is still in its initial stages, many on social media guessed that it had to do with the status of women in Saudi Arabia.
“When a man travels he’s a passenger or a migrant, but when a woman travels she’s a fugitive,” MAD tweeted. “Maybe that’s because everybody knows she lives in a prison.”
الرجل يسمونه مهاجر أو مسافر بس المرأة يسمونها هاربة لإنهم عارفين إنها كانت في سجن.
— ماد. (@MAD___5) October 8, 2016
Juju tweeted: “A man can fly without his parents’ knowledge, and when it happens they beg him and try to justify it by saying that he was fed up with his job…!”
— جوجو (@hanooooooonah) October 8, 2016
“Let’s hope it won’t become a trend now, especially with social media and the openness they usher in to society,” Eid al Fahad tweeted. “May Allah protect them and the daughters of Muslims.”
نتمنئ أن لا ترتقي المسألة إلى ظاهرة مع تعدد وسائل التواصل الاجتماعي وانفتاح المجتمع
الله يستر عليهن وع بنات المسلمين
— Fahad A. Al-Eid (@FahadAl3eid) October 8, 2016
“Take me with youuu girls,” wrote Suga in English.
Take me with youuu girls 😂😍😍😍 #هروب_فتاتين_الي_كوريا
— Suga's wife (@KamilaBts1) October 8, 2016
“They might have escaped because their families mistreated them,” Ahmad wrote. “When there’s smoke there’s fire.”
اكيد هربوا من ظلم اهلهم مافي دخان بدون نار🔥
— أحمـد (@Ahmed_1y) October 8, 2016
Some were outraged by Ahmad’s tweet, including Wafi, who replied: “You run away too. You are also oppressed and can’t enjoy your liberty, poor sod.”
@Ahmed_1y مشاء الله وليش مقهور على البنات وشايف انهم مقهورين
— وافي الطبع (@geme933) October 8, 2016
Scarlett tweeted one word, in English: “Lucky.”
— scarlett (@fropavg_) October 8, 2016
Sharife sympathized with the two “fugitives,” posting a video of young women running with the caption “run run run” in English.
— شريفة (@Rixa55) October 8, 2016
“Good job girls,” the supportive Rawan tweeted, also in English.
Good job girls #هروب_فتاتين_الي_كوريا
— RAWAN 라완 (@ranfranf) October 8, 2016
Shod, however, posted a picture of a sad woman and wrote in English: “What about me.”
— shod. (@shah17d) October 8, 2016