Authorities in the Philippines intercepted a Saudi woman fleeing to Australia and helped organise her return to Saudi Arabia, where her life is in danger, Saudi Arabian feminist activists have said.
Dina Ali Lasloom intended to enter Australia on a tourist visa – seen by The Australian – and then claim asylum.
“If my family come, they will kill me. If I go back to Saudi Arabia, I will be dead,” Ms Lasloom said in a video sent to an activist and posted to Twitter.
“I stopped in Philippines,” she said, “they took my passport and locked me for 13 hours – just because I’m a Saudi woman – with the collaboration of Saudi embassy.”
The incident sparked a viral social media campaign under the hashtag #SaveDinaAli, but activists say Ms Lasoom has since been forced to return to Saudi Arabia, escorted by relatives.
The Saudi embassy in the Philippines on Wednesday issued a statement branding the situation a family matter and said the woman had returned “with her relatives to the homeland”.
Meagan Khan, a Canadian woman who says she witnessed the incident and attempted to help, said in a video posted to Twitter that “someone important” spoke with authorities and told them to prevent onward travel – in another post an activist referred to Ms Lasoom’s “diplomatic uncles.”
Ms Kahn told The Australian that she let Ms Lasloom use her phone to send messages and videos, and that the woman became very upset when men arrived who she said were her relatives.
Reuters has reported that witnesses saw a woman being carried through the airport.
“I heard a lady screaming from upstairs. Then I saw two or three men carrying her. They weren’t Filipino. They looked Arab,” one Filipino woman told the news agency.
Philippine Star reported that immigration officials said that because she was a transit passenger, it was a matter for the airline and not immigration.
The newspaper reported that it was unable to independently verify the details of the incident.
SBS has sought confirmation of details from Saudi and Philippine government representatives – but has not yet received a response.
A rare gathering of about 10 Saudi activists appeared in the arrivals area of the Riyadh airport around midnight on Wednesday, after a hashtag began circulating on Twitter urging people to “receive Dina at the airport.”
One of them, a 23-year-old medical student named Alaa Alanazi, appeared to have been detained after approaching airport security about the case.
The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection, when asked to confirm that a tourist visa was issued to Ms Lasoom, said they could not comment on individual visa matters for privacy reasons.
Saudi Arabia is one of the most repressive countries when it comes to women’s freedom – women require permission from a male “guardian” to study, marry, travel, go to the doctor and conduct other everyday activities.
– with AAP