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To many Saudi refugees gets returned. I have decided to use my nerdiness to attempt to create a handbook of advice. This is not a complete guide.
Fog of war (Is a term used in games, for what you can’t see)
If nobody knows that you left, nobody is trying to stop you. Plan how to delay discovery as long as possible. Use all possible tools to maximize the time to discovery. Different tools: Fake visits, fake sick in bed, fake travel, leave in the night and any way you can justify not being in contact with those who would stop you.
The way most Saudis trying to escape are caught, is because they are tracked. This is why protecting your identity is the most important part of your escape. Protecting the identity is a way of extending the fog of war until you have escaped.
Saudi has the internet under censorship wall. All internet activity in Saudi is monitored. Because of the shear amount of information it is impossible for them to read trough all. The tools they use to find activity they disprove of, is filters. Some ways of circumventing this is using code language, fake accounts or even better a VPN. A VPN is really the best way, but it is also illegal in Saudi. If you take some caution it is not a problem to avoid detection. Most VPN users are caught having it on their phone, during security checks. They usually don’t look for things like this unless you are suspected. If some services are blocked for use outside Saudi, you can use a trusted proxy to gain access.
Your browser can be tracked, by using cookies, bookmarks etc.. Use a stock version of the browser or a private mode where available. Or even better Tor browser. This browser sends traffic in loops and circles between you and the browser and also hides tracking information.
The trap to many Saudi refugees fall into is using their cell phones during the escape. They forget that cellphones can be tracked in these ways:
- Hidden tracking app put on the phone.
- Iphones come with anti theft hardware from which the on purchased have the access to. Available on other brands to varying degree.
- Most phones has Geo-tagging activated, this tags all your messages images etc. with your location in the meta description of the file. This should always be turned of.
- The phone company records details of all the calls that is made from the phone. Including length and to which phone number it is to. This information is usually sent to the owner of the cell phone subscription. And may be accessible to family members. Some companies even provides the possibility to read all text messages.
- Parental mode on phones can be customized in a way that gives someone access to all your data sent.
Using a cell phone when escaping is a giant risk factor. Ways to negate the risks include:
- Not bringing your phone.
- Adjusting the settings on the phone you bring.
- Borrowing someone else’s phone or buy a prepaid phone in someone else’s name.
- Tor in Firefox from an open wireless access point, if possible.(Orbot). Don’t have it installed when going trough security.
Mix and match these to get the risk vs usability you desire. You may need a phone to ask for help, so not bringing one is risky to.
Every transaction and it’s location from a credit card is tracked. If someone has access or parental control of your bank account they know when and where you use it. Cash is king. Sometimes it’s possible to get visa gift cards that aren’t traceable to a person.
Saudi has a muslim majority and an a religiously enforced anonymity on women. Use this to your advantage. If you wear a niqab when you enter a foreign country and stay near others with niquab when leaving the plane. It is difficult to track you in the crowd. If the thugs from the Saudi embassy can’t single you out, they will have a much harder job in infringing on your rights. If you arrive at your final destination, leave the airport as soon as possible. If you are transferring to a different country you must be prepared to blend in with different people. Change in the restroom to something bland or tourist like.
If you have a visa or a refugee status in Australia. You need to go to their embassy to show that you have arrived. Try to get to their embassy as fast as possible. This is not required, but gives you a head start if trouble comes. Find friends at the airport you might need allies. Sometimes the embassy are helpful in leting you enter the plane from a different entrance, if you have someone on your tail. They will be standing next to the gate looking for you when the plane takes of.
Know your rights
When you land on a International airport you are in a internationalized zone. In this zone the law of the country you are currently in apply. This means that if someone is caught in this zone doing criminal activities they are liable to be tried in the court of that country. Most western, Asian and so on has anti human trafficking laws. These usually include all involuntary travel of people, by fooling, intimidating or using force. All kinds of sending someone against their will or even holding them against their will may be illegal. You should study or skim these laws for the country before you travel and use them to argue if you get in trouble.
Due to widespread propaganda from the Saudi embassy and little knowledge of the law in general. Airport personell, airport companies, security and even law enforcement in general. May have a bias and actually assist in sending refugees out of the country against their will. This is why you should have a basic understanding of your rights and contact the correct authorities.
Avoid liars and have a plan B already planned.
The most common way of fooling refugees to cooperate in international airport is by directly lying. Offering you help and bringing you out of the public. Before taking your papers, passports etc. Demand to speak with the correct authorities.
Another way they fool people is by providing other authorities with false information. This usually makes them play along. People generally do not expect a embassy to lie. This is why it is extremely important that you are clear when asking for help. “I am a refuge, I’m held in <country> internationalized zone, which is under <country> jurisdiction. I am a refugee/migrant that has visa in <country>. I wish to be protected as a refugee under <law> and defended against human trafficking under <law>”. Laws can usually be found on wikipedia. They do not have the right to take your phone, but they do that sometimes. But they don’t dare to do that to locals or other tourists.
In the world shocking case of Dina Ali, a video of airport personell saying orphan Dina’s father was coming to get her can be seen. This highlights how Saudi embassy is willing to lie, in order to get other authorities on their side. In this case it was Manila airport officials, that was fooled to assist in a terrible case of human trafficking.
Documents. Always have copies of your documents in cloud services. Create a separate account using a VPN and upload copies of all your documents, use a nationality that has privacy protection(Sweden, US). If you get to the embassy correct embassy or in the hands of government officials. You can provide documentation despite it being taken. You wan’t to create the separate account under an alias. You can use google docs, droppbox or similar.
Use a recording device and take names. If you manage to get authorities attention or you manage to get to the correct embassy. They will directly deny any involvement. A Saudi woman I spoke to that traveled with permission, but was still chased by the embassy. Say attention from Saudi embassy ceased, when she got to the the correct embassy. That is no guarantee they will let up the hunt. They are willing to lie about everything to anyone, so if you have recordings you can prove it and gain the trust.
Remember you are not the first or the last refugee from Saudi and all forms of documentation is helping the next ones escape. Maybe you get sent back and get to escape another day. Think ahead. If the people who assisted in your right violations the first time is in bars or fired, the likelihood someone else or you on your second run will be stopped is decreased. Also if airport personell gets the pressure of a human trafficking lawsuit once, they will likely cooperate the second time.
Ways of gathering evidence:
Safest should be used during the entire escape. Primitive recording device not connected to the internet. It can be a mp3 player without headset, set on record and hidden in a pocket. This can be marked with an address for it to be delivered if lost. The address should be someone you trust. You can drop this if you are sent back or give it to some civilians on the airport if you can. If it is cheap and promises a reward it is more likely to be sent. Maybe even already having a stamp on it.
Videos, videos can be recorded before and given to a friend. They can be recorded when trouble arise. They can circulate social medias quite quickly, but social media is to be avoided unless a crisis is building.
Live stream, this is one of the most powerful tools. It is impossible to delete it and if captured abroad. You can live stream video or sound if the situation gets bad. You can also set up a live stream to a person you trust in case. This stream can then be published by the person watching if things get out of hand. And clips can be made from it proving what is going on.
To onlookers from Saudi
This is not meant as an attack on Saudi, but this need to stop. You can make it so women don’t want to leave in the first place, by granting them rights and protection. As a citizen of a different wealthy country, I experience women trying to get in rather than to leave. If you fixed yourself up a bit, maybe that would be the case for Saudi as well. If you in any sense think people trying to escape Saudi are bringing you a bad name, know that you are the cause and not them. Trying to stop them only brings greater attention.