In a bizarre twist of events that has rocked Saudi social media in the past few days, two female Saudi university students have apparently fled their families and their country to start a new life in South Korea, according to Al-Arabiya and multiple other sources.
Though the names of the girls have yet to be revealed, the father of one of the girls said that his daughter went to university like she would on any normal day, but was late to return home. The 20 year old apparently headed for the airport, where she flew to an unspecified city in South Korea with one of her classmates.
Considering women are not allowed to leave Saudi Arabia without the express permission of a male guardian, their flight was a remarkable feat. The father of the aforementioned 20 year old guesses that she logged into his phone’s “Abshir” account (a mobile app that allows Saudi citizens to perform certain bureaucratic and logistical tasks online) and gave herself permission to travel.
As for why they set their sights on South Korea, relatives of one of the girls claim she had an affinity for Korean culture and “K-Pop” music – an interest not uncommon among female Arab youth.
Naturally, the story has made a huge splash on social media with many arguing in favor of the girls’ escape, while others have condemned them for bringing shame to their family.
Some celebrated their escape and wished them the best.
#هروب_فتاتين_الي_كوريا i hope they arrive safely and never have to come back— Rima (@imemhere) October 8, 2016
Many pointed out the double standards between Saudi women and their male counterparts
#هروب_فتاتين_الي_كوريا— أبو طلال (@AmrTSa) October 9, 2016
خروج فتاة لبلد آخر طلبا للحماية: عهر وإجرام
خروج شاب لبلد آخر طلبا للدعارة والخمور: طيش شباب ولعله يتوب
"A girl leaving for another country seeking protection: Immoral and criminal.
A guy leaving for another country seeking prostitution and alcohol: It’s the nature of guys and maybe they’ll repent."
#هروب_فتاتين_الي_كوريا— ماد. (@MAD___5) October 8, 2016
الرجل يسمونه مهاجر أو مسافر بس المرأة يسمونها هاربة لإنهم عارفين إنها كانت في سجن.
"A man [would be] called an immigrant or traveller, but the woman is said to be fleeing - because they know that she was in a prison."
To many, however, the girls wronged their families and their country. One Twitter user tied it to the ongoing debate about male guardianship and activist against it:
#هروب_فتاتين_الي_كوريا— شيخويت (@shsm22) October 8, 2016
ﻻوالعلمانية واليبرالية اﻻنجاس يطالبون بإسقاط الوﻻيه
اﻻسﻻم يعرف عقلية البشر وله حكمه في ذلك
إسقاط الوﻻيه دمار للمجتمع
"No to the dirty seculars and liberals demanding the end of male guardianship. Islam knows how humans think and provides wisdom. The end of male guardianship is the destruction of society."
According to Arab News, the Saudi envoy to South Korea has confirmed that one of the girls entered the country, but her whereabouts remain unknown. The Saudi government is attempting to work with local authorities to discover their whereabouts, but what their discovery might entail for the girls is yet to be known.