One of the first main news stories of 2019 has been about an 18-year-old Saudi woman who renounced her religion and had to flee her country, and family, to seek refuge in Australia. On her way to Australia she was found in Thailand, where she barricaded herself in a hotel room and used social media to get her story out to thousands across the globe. Thankfully she was granted refugee status in Canada and was allowed to fly there and start a new life.
Although women’s rights are a global issue, it is especially a problem within the Middle East. This story has brought home the real dangers that women in the Middle East are in just for asking for basic human rights – freedom of travel and freedom of religion.
The majority of countries within the Middle East are not as strict as Saudi Arabia, but there are still strong restrictions on women across the whole region. Child brides, human trafficking, abusive relationships, restricted travel are some of the more extreme examples. However, these do not include the daily issues such as restrictions on dress and censorship of behaviour and sexual harassment on the streets.
The case of the 18-year-old woman from Saudi Arabia has taught us the impact that can be made through media. Through social media she was able to reach out to a global community for protection.
We want to help even more women like her through media, that is why we created Nisa’a Women’s Project which is made up of four interconnected strands – an online community, an off-line community (meeting face-to-face), media production and training. The online community provides hundreds of women with a support system to connect and discuss the issues they are facing. For women who are unable to leave their homes, an online community can often be the place they can talk freely and find friends – a lifeline for many women.
Please join us in praying that:
Those who are fearful and oppressed would feel God’s love and peace.
Lawmakers and judges would have open hearts so that God’s justice would speak to them.
Men in the region would stand up to oppressive regimes and demand a change.
Women currently in prison due to asking for women’s rights would be protected and have their hearts filled with God’s hope.
The international community would continue to put pressure on these countries to give women freedom.