Confirmation that Amna Aljuaid is currently in a women’s shelter, and is “doing well, considering the situation.”
The case of Amna Aljuaid has troubled women’s rights’ activists both inside the Kingdom and beyond for months. On 25th October 2017, two videos recorded by Ms. Aljuaid were released on social media by friends, who claimed she had disappeared and feared for her safety.
In the clips, Amna describes the years of verbal, psychological and physical abuse she has endured at the hands of her father, culminating in a forced marriage to a close cousin.
It was this final act that is believed to have prompted Amna to flee the family home. It was a desperate step; leaving her home without the consent of a male guardian is considered an act of delinquency in Saudi society. If caught by police, ‘runaways’ are usually returned to their abusers or incarcerated.
The heart-rending clips were shared thousands of times across social media using the hashtag #saveamna, and her cause was picked up by various international human rights’ organisations, who demanded information regarding her whereabouts and safety.
"If this video comes out, along with other material, be sure that something has happened to me."
But despite the attention attracted by her case, the trail quickly turned cold, and those who haven’t forgotten Amna’s plight have grown increasingly worried about what her silence might imply. Had she been returned to an abusive household, imprisoned or worse?
This week QoK has been very fortunate to obtain a direct phone call with a member of the team working on her case here in the Kingdom. Our source, who did not wish to be named, had some encouraging news.
“She’s actually in a woman’s shelter, she’s been there for the last seven months, and right now we’re working with the lawyer on all the legalities to get her out without the permission [of her guardian], at least to go to work.
She has a job and we want her to get out of the shelter and to go to work, and then come back. We’re also working on getting her out permanently, without the permission of her guardian.
...So right now, she is well and safe. The only one of us who can see her from outside the shelter, is her lawyer. I cannot see her, her employer cannot see her. But she’s doing well, you know, considering the situation.”
The news that Amna is safe and has a dedicated team working on her behalf should come as a relief to her supporters. However, her condition also highlights an especially inhumane aspect of the country’s male guardianship system.
While most Saudi cities do now offer women’s shelters for those living in precarious circumstances or in fear of violence, once a woman enters, she cannot leave without the authorisation of her guardian. In Amna’s case, as in most others, this is precisely the person whose abuse led her to the shelter in the first place.
But in the Kingdom’s current climate of reform, especially with regard to women’s rights, there is hope that Amna will not be confined for very much longer. “As we speak right now,” explained our source, “there are legal changes happening... Shura members have actually posted [online] and said that women who are in a shelter or in prison, need not have their guardian to take them out.”
The reform has not yet received the royal seal of approval, but the fact it is being openly discussed in the Shura Council, Saudi Arabia’s highest consultative body, suggests that the wheels are already in motion.
It’s also a further indication that link by link, the chains of male guardianship that constrain Amna, and millions of other women in this country, may finally be being dismantled.