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British Woman ‘Locked’ In Saudi Arabia Bedroom Must Return to UK, Says Judge

Photo: Getty Images.
Amina Al-Jeffery, 21, was a normal school girl in Wales until 2012, when her father allegedly sent her to Saudi Arabia against her will because she “kissed a guy”. Her story is a shocking reminder of just how far away equality for women still is in many countries around the world.

Al-Jeffery, who was born and brought up in Swansea and has dual British and Saudi Arabian nationality, says her father, Mohammed Al-Jeffery, a Saudi Arabian academic, locked her up at his home in the Saudi city of Jeddah when she was 16. Her mother and eight siblings still live in the UK.

She was reportedly confined to a bedroom with metal bars on the window, beaten and deprived of food and water, The Guardian reported.

Al-Jeffery also said she had been “physically abused” by having her head smacked against a wall, and sometimes had to use her room as a toilet because she wasn’t allowed to leave, reported the BBC.

Al-Jeffery’s father claimed she had become a "reckless" teenager, taking drugs, clubbing and “spending time with older men". He had also accused the British government of "doing nothing" to stop her, the BBC reported.

Al-Jeffery reached out to British lawyer Anne-Marie Hutchinson QC by email last December when she had escaped and “was on the run for the few days”, before being put in a refuge. But she was removed from the refuge in early January, and her father then “issued proceedings before the Saudi Arabian courts to compel her to observe his commands and… live her life under his control”, Hutchinson told the BBC.

On Wednesday, a High Court judge in the UK ruled that Al-Jeffery must be allowed to return home to the UK. Mr Justice Holman said she had been "deprived of her liberty" and her father must enable her to return by the 11th of September, the BBC reported.
Photo: Amina Al-Jeffery.

However, the judge admitted it won’t be easy to arrange her return because Saudi Arabia won’t necessarily recognise the ruling. He said there was "little or nothing this court could do" if Al-Jeffery’s father refuses to comply and there are no conventions between Britain and Saudi Arabia.

“The courts in Saudi Arabia would not even recognise the basis of the claim, because it does not recognise dual nationality,” the judge said. The Saudi embassy even paid for Al-Jeffery's father’s legal costs.

The case highlights the culture clash between Britain and Saudi Arabia in terms of women’s place in society. Sir William Patey, the former British ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told the BBC: “While we think it's very normal that a 21-year-old woman is a freely independent actor, and can do what she likes, that's not quite the same in Saudi Arabia where a single woman is subject to the guardianship of her appropriate male relative."

He also said the case would be considered as more of a "family dispute" in Saudi Arabia, rather than a legal one.

Al-Jeffery has been in touch with her old school friends in the UK, the BBC reported, sending them a photo of the room she was reportedly locked in and asking them to tell the British Embassy about her situation.

The Foreign Office said British embassy staff have met with Al-Jeffery to “check on her welfare and helped her speak to lawyers in the UK".

It's now up to the UK government and diplomats to negotiate on Al-Jeffery's behalf and ensure she comes home, Shereen Williams from the Henna Foundation, which supports Muslim families in Wales, told the BBC.