Saudi Sisters Stuck 'In Hiding' For Six Months In Hong Kong Seek Asylum In Australia
Going by the aliases Reem and Rawan, the siblings -- alleged victims of family violence -- were en route to Melbourne on Australian tourist visas when Saudi officials "attempted to kidnap them" at Hong Kong airport.
Aged 18 and 20, the sisters were on a family holiday in Sri Lanka when they fled to Hong Kong in September last year, bound for Australia.
They have said they were obstructed by Saudi officials as they prepared to leave Hong Kong for Melbourne, and have been stuck there for six months.
The pair issued a statement which described how they had renounced Islam and feared the death penalty if made to return to Saudi Arabia.
"We fled our home to ensure our safety. We hope that we can be given asylum in a country which recognises women's rights and treats them as equals," the statement read, shared by their lawyer Michael Vidler.
"We dream of being in a safe place where we can be normal young women, free from violence and oppression."
The sisters created a Twitter account on Thursday to share updates of their precarious journey.
"We have been living in hiding and moving constantly since our arrival," they tweeted.
Reem and Rawan told CNN they'd been planning their escape in secret for two years, writing to each other through WhatsApp even while in the same room.
During a family trip to Sri Lanka, the sisters "stole" their passports, took a cab to Colombo Airport and boarded a Sri Lankan Airlines flight to Hong Kong.
They were stopped at Hong Kong airport as they tried flying to Melbourne, and decided to escape when Saudi officials reportedly halted their movements.
Australian immigration officials were reportedly called when they tried boarding a Qantas flight to Melbourne, and their Australian tourist visas were cancelled.
"The only issues with the visa occurred when the Vice Consul made what we believe to be false representations to the Australian authorities at the boarding gate of Qantas airlines," their lawyer said.
According to CNN, the sisters have since "moved from shelter to shelter, hotel to hotel, to evade detection and their potential forced return to Riyadh."
With their Saudi passports reportedly cancelled and no formal permission to stay in Hong Kong, Reem and Rawan are now seeking visas in a "safe country".
Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, was detained last month by Thai authorities transiting through Bangkok en route from Kuwait to Australia.
Another alleged victim of family violence, al-Qunun was granted refugee status in Canada last month.
Late last year, two other Saudi sisters -- Tala Farea, 16, and Rotana Farea, 23 -- were found dead by police in New York City in an apparent drowning suicide.
"Sources" told detectives during their investigation the girls "would rather inflict harm on themselves and commit suicide then return to Saudi Arabia".
Australia's Department of Home Affairs refused to say why Reem and Rawan's visas were cancelled, on the basis they do not comment on individual cases due to privacy considerations.