Lawyer of Saudi sisters in Turkey fighting to prevent extradition
İlker Sezer – ISTANBUL
The lawyer of two Saudi Arabian sisters in Turkey has been fighting to prevent the women from being extradited to their own country, saying they will face violence if they return.
The sisters, Ashwaq Hamoud, 30, and Areej Hamoud, 28, said they fled Saudi Arabia in late February to Turkey to escape abuse from male family members, ranging from beatings to being locked in their room and deprived of food.
Turkish authorities detained the sisters on May 16 in Istanbul after their father notified Turkish authorities that his daughters had been “planning to join terrorist groups in Syria,” which was denied by the Hamoud sisters.
There is no known criminal investigation of the women by the Turkish authorities related to their father’s allegation.
They are currently being kept in an undisclosed location over security concerns.
The Hamoud sisters’ plight recently came on the agenda when Human Rights Watch urged Turkey not to send the women back to Saudi Arabia because they could face “serious harm from Saudi authorities or family members.”
“Saudi women fleeing their family or the country can face so-called ‘honor’ violence or other serious harm if returned against their will,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
“If Turkey returns these women, the consequences could be dire. Saudi women face systematic discrimination every day, and the Hamoud sisters’ case shows that women who flee face the real threat of being returned to abusive families,” she also said.
Their lawyer Serdarhan Topo has been struggling to prevent the sisters from being extradited and said they had made an application to the Istanbul Administrative Court to halt the deportation process, but it had been rejected.
Upon the rejection, Topo applied to the Constitutional Court to issue an injunction to prevent any sudden extradition from taking place.
After Turkey’s top court rejected an individual application regarding Ashwaq Hamoud, another objection was filed to the Constitutional Court.
Topo said it could easily be understood that the sisters faced grave danger when practices against women in Saudi Arabia are examined.
Topo said he viewed the sisters’ boarding passes, which indicated that the sisters attempted to flee to New Zealand on Feb. 8 via Hong Kong from Abu Dhabi but were not permitted to board their connecting flight in Hong Kong because officials suspected the purpose of the sisters’ trip was to claim asylum rather than tourism. Instead, the sisters decided to fly from Hong Kong to Istanbul on Feb. 9 and stay in Turkey rather than return to Saudi Arabia, the lawyer said.
Following their detention on May 16, the sisters issued a series of videos from their mobile phone in which they claimed they fled from family abuse and feared they would be harmed if returned to Saudi Arabia.
While urging Turkish authorities not to send the sisters back, Topo noted they might face a similar fate to Dina Ali Lasloom.
In April, Dina Ali Lasloom, a 24-year-old Saudi woman, was returned to Saudi Arabia against her will while in transit in the Philippines. Her whereabouts are still unknown.