Australia investigates the death of two Saudi sisters

Amaal Abdullah Alsehli and Asra Abdullah Alsehli, two Saudi sisters, arrived in Australia in 2017; they were 23 and 24 years old, respectively, and on 7 June they were found dead in their rented apartment in Canterbury, Sydney’s western suburbs. For weeks the New South Wales police have been investigating to clarify the circumstances of their death, the causes of which have not yet been defined: various hypotheses circulate in the local press, some of which seem to be linked to the alleged reasons why they went to Australia. , like the one according to which they fled Saudi Arabia for reasons related to gender discrimination or because of their sexuality.

Both Amaal and Asra Abdullah Alsehli were enrolled in a training program run by the Australian government and both were involved in traffic control for a construction company. They were very private and shared very little information on social networks: some neighbors told the Australian media that they were quiet people, had few friends and were mostly on their own. Their bodies were found in an advanced state of decomposition in the two bedrooms of the apartment, whose doors and windows showed no signs of forced entry.

Police speculate that the two sisters died in early May, but at the moment the causes of their death are unclear and the autopsy has not shown definitive results. Detective Claudia Allcroft, New South Wales Police Inspector, said family members of women in Saudi Arabia are cooperating with the investigation and added that for now there is nothing to suggest they may be suspected. SBS News verified the information that both had applied for asylum in Australia, but it is not known why. Allcroft has made it clear that at the moment there are no elements to say with certainty that the girls had fled their country.

A man who claimed to be Asra’s friend told al Daily Telegraph that the girl never told anything about her life; he met her outside the home, but he didn’t know where she worked and had never been invited to her apartment. The Sydney Morning Herald wrote that last year the sisters had told the administrator of the building that they feared someone would do something to the food they ordered at home; according to another person heard by the same newspaper “they were afraid of something”.

The unclear circumstances of the deaths of Amaal and Asra Abdullah Alsehli have led Australian newspapers – in particular the tabloids – to formulate various hypotheses.

The owner of the apartment told the tabloid Daily Telegraph that in the two years they had rented the apartment the sisters had been excellent tenants, but that earlier this year they had stopped paying the rent. Having received no response to her request to leave the apartment, he had denounced them: on May 13 they were supposed to go to court for a hearing, but they hadn’t seen each other. According to the police hypothesis, they were presumably already dead.

These days always the Daily Telegraph he wrote that some “bottles of chemicals” had been found next to their bodies which would have led investigators to think they may have planned to commit suicide. The tabloid cited police sources, but at the moment they have not confirmed this reconstruction.

According to information obtained from the GuardianInstead, investigators are also trying to figure out if the sisters ‘deaths may have to do with issues relating to one of the sisters’ sexual orientation or gender identity.

A woman who spoke to the Guardian on condition of remaining anonymous, she said she met them both last January at a party for people queer, that is, which do not identify with the traditional categories of gender and sexual orientation. This person said that at the party the sisters had told her that in Saudi Arabia women lived “in fear for their own safety” and had added that they were “grateful” to live in a country where “they could express themselves more freely”. She also said that they were reluctant to give too many details about their country or life and that according to her, as she also explained to the New South Wales police, one of them identified herself as queer.

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For now, none of the hypotheses have been confirmed by the police.

In recent years, various human rights organizations have expressed serious concerns about the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia: despite some slightly positive signs – for example, from 2018 women can lead – the Saudi society continues to be an extremely closed society, where women must have men’s permission to look for a job or undergo certain medical tests, among other things. According to a survey carried out by the Australian Four Corners program in 2019, there were 80 women from Saudi Arabia who had applied for asylum in Australia in previous years, many of whom were trying to escape the strict laws that every woman must have a man who exercise a “custody” over her.

As the researcher of the NGO Human Rights Watch Australia Sophie McNeill noted, moreover, often people from Saudi Arabia who seek asylum are more vulnerable than those from other countries because in many cases they do not want contact with the Saudi community abroad. , and for this reason they do not have many support networks apart from other compatriots asylum seekers.

One person who has cared for Saudi women seeking asylum in Australia told al Guardian that she would not be surprised by the possibility that Amaal and Asra Abdullah Alsehli had escaped from Saudi Arabia because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity. These are reasons that, combined with the “persecution they have suffered or know they will have to suffer if they reveal their sexual preferences” push “a fair number of people from the Saudi community” to do so, specified the person, who preferred not to disclose his first name.

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About Banner Leon

Videogames entered his life in the late '80s, at the time of the first meeting with Super Mario Bros, and even today they make it a permanent part, after almost 30 years. Pros and defects: he manages to finish Super Mario Bros in less than 5 minutes but he has never finished Final Fight with a credit ... he's still trying.

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