Two Saudi teen sisters committed suicide rather than return home

In October, the bodies of two Saudi Arabian sisters, Tala Farea, 16, and Rotana Farea, 23, washed up on the New York city waterfront. Authorities feared foul play.

But yesterday, the medical examiner said the two young women committed suicide. Friends say that the sisters said they would kill themselves before returning to Saudi Arabia.


Their fully clothed bodies were discovered Oct. 24 near the river, two months after they were last seen in Fairfax, Virginia, where they had been living in a shelter amid allegations that they were abused at home.

Police said the sisters had been in Manhattan since Sept. 1, staying at expensive hotels and ordering in pairs of meals until a credit card they were using maxed out. A jogger said he saw them praying at a playground near the river, sitting about 30 feet apart with their heads in their hands, hours before their bodies were found, police said.

The deaths shined a light on the secretive and risky journeys Saudi women take to flee their homes in the kingdom and abroad. Under the kingdom's guardianship system, women must have the approval of a male relative - such as a father, husband, brother, or even a son - to marry, obtain a passport or travel.

New York City Police Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said people who knew the Farea sisters in Virginia told investigators that they made statements within the last year indicating "that they would rather inflict harm on themselves - commit suicide - than return to Saudi Arabia."

Recently, another Saudi teen girl, Rahaf Al-Qunun, barricaded herself in her hotel room in Thailand rather than return home. She was granted asylum by Canada.

Miss Qunun said she feared her family would kill her for renouncing Islam. The two other teen girls said they were escaping abuse by their family. I'm sure there are loving Muslim families just like there are loving - or abusive - Christian families. But for girls especially, who have access to the internet and see how differently other people live, it must be torture for them to live in such a stifling, degrading society. 

There are Muslim women who accept their inferiority and are probably perfectly happy. But no country will ever achieve what they are capable of if they refuse to utilize the skills and brainpower of 50% of their population. In fact, they will remain backwaters and hell holes.

It is not "culturally insensitive" to point this out. It is a reality lived by tens of millions of women around the world and it's past time for non-Muslims to demand change in the name of our common humanity.