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Runaway Saudi sisters leave Georgia to start new life in secret location

Sisters, who say they were abused by their family, announce they are moving somewhere their relatives cannot find them
The sisters said they had become stranded in Georgia after the Saudi government suspended their passports (Georgia Sisters)

Two runaway Saudi sisters who won global attention for fleeing to Georgia and pleading online for protection said on Tuesday that they were preparing to start new lives in a new country where their family could not find them.

Maha, 28, and Wafa al-Subaie, 25, started an online campaign to find a safe haven in April, after arriving in Georgia to escape relatives they said abused them, in the latest case to highlight Saudi Arabia's strict social control over women.

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"We are thrilled to announce that we are leaving Georgia," the young women wrote on Tuesday from their Twitter account @GeorgiasSisters2, posting a short video of them holding Georgian passports at the airport in the capital Tbilisi.

The sisters applied for asylum in Georgia in April but said they wanted to move elsewhere because they feared their family could come to the former Soviet republic, as visas are not required, and force them back home.

'We will continue to support Saudi women'

The sisters said they wanted their destination to remain secret "for a little while", while thanking all those had who supported them, the Reuters news agency reported.

"As we settle in our new home and life we will continue to support Saudi women," they wrote on Twitter.

"We will continue our fight against guardian abuse. Many Saudi women supported us and we will never forget it."

Saudi women must have permission from a male relative to work, marry and travel under the kingdom's guardianship system, which human rights groups say can trap women and girls in abusive families.

Earlier this year, Rahaf al-Qunun, a Saudi teenager who had taken refuge in a Thai airport hotel to escape her family, won asylum in Canada.

In 2017, a Saudi woman who had sought asylum in Australia, saying she feared violence from relatives, was stopped on a layover in the Philippines and returned to Riyadh.