Rights groups have expressed concern over the safety of a Saudi woman who was obliged to return to her country by Philippine authorities. Dina Ali Lasloom was attempting to flee to Australia to escape forced marriage.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) cited a Canadian witness as saying that 24-year-old Dina Ali Lasloom was not allowed by airport authorities in Manila to board a Sydney-bound flight Tuesday. Instead, she was forcefully sent back to Saudi Arabia, where she fears her life is at risk.
The witness said Lasloom approached her while in transit at the airport in Manila, saying "airport officials had confiscated her passport and boarding pass" for the Sydney flight.
The Canadian told media she helped Lasloom made videos for social media to highlight her plight. In one of the videos, which went viral on the Internet, Lasloom said: "If my family comes, they will kill me. If I go back to Saudi Arabia, I will be dead. Please help me," she pleads in the video.
"I am kept here as a criminal. I can't do anything," Lasloom purportedly said about her detention at the Manila airport.
HRW quoted an airline security office as saying he heard Lasloom "screaming for help" before airport personnel and Middle Eastern men dragged her "with duct tape on her mouth, feet and hands."
HRW had earlier said Lasloom's current whereabouts were unknown, but a Saudi activist told the AFP news agency that the 24-year-old, who lived in Kuwait, "was brought back by force to Riyadh and is now in custody."
The activist also said that a female medical student, Alaa, who went to Riyadh to support Lasloom, was arrested by the authorities.
Arranged marriages are the norm in the Arab country, where women need a male "guardian"- usually a family member - to grant them permission for study, travel and other activities.
A 'family matter'
"Women's rights are… the most prominent human rights problems in Saudi Arabia," said the Berlin-based European Saudi Organization for Human Rights, adding that "the seriousness of what Dina Ali is facing" stems from the guardianship system.
The Saudi embassy in Manila described the incident as a "family matter."
"The citizen has now returned with her family to the homeland," it said on Twitter.
HRW called on Riyadh to reveal Lasloom's whereabouts. "Lasloom is at serious risk of harm if returned to family. She also faces possible criminal charges" for alleged parental disobedience and harming the reputation of the state.
The rights group also demanded that the Philippine government investigate and hold accountable "any of their officials who failed to protect Dina Ali Lasloom" as required by international law.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was in the Saudi capital Riyadh when the incident took place.
shs/rc (AP, AFP)