Emirati Woman Pleads for Asylum After Macedonia Rejects Her Case

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An Emirati woman who claims to have fled imprisonment by her family only to end up detained in North Macedonia is begging other countries to avert her imminent deportation and offer her asylum status, CNN reports.

Hind Mohammed al-Bolooki, 42, said her family locked her in her home in Dubai last October after they discovered she was seeking a divorce, according to CNN. In a video posted online before her arrest, al-Bolooki says her family feared the divorce would spoil their reputation, and so they tried to steal her passport. But she managed to escape after asking to use the bathroom and joined her friend Nenad Dimitrov in North Macedonia.

In a statement, Macedonia’s interior ministry said al-Bolooki’s asylum request was denied on Feb. 4 because there “was no evidence of persecution.” It added that there is “no reason to believe that, should she return [to Dubai], she would be faced with a real risk of serious injury.”

But al-Bolooki disagrees.

“They will make my life hell,” she says in her video. “And that’s all because I asked only for a divorce.”

Al-Bolooki has been granted a 15-day grace period to leave North Macedonia, but has been kept in detention since Dec. 7. With no sign of an impending release, her friends fear she will be deported directly from prison after the allotted time runs out, according to CNN.

Dimitrov, who been running al-Bolooki’s Twitter account, is advocating for her release and for a third country to consider her need for asylum.

Radha Stirling, founder of U.K. advocacy group Detained in Dubai, said if al-Bolooki went back to the UAE, she would “likely be severely punished for her escape.”

“The patriarchal system, and informal male guardianship rules she is fleeing are just as pronounced in the UAE as they are in Saudi Arabia,” Stirling said.

Al-Bolooki’s case comes just a month after Saudi runaway Rahaf Alqunun used social media to broadcast her pleas for help and lobby for refugee status, which she eventually received and was resettled in Canada.

Last year, Dubai princess Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum made headlines after reportedly trying to escape mistreatment, oppression and even imprisonment by her family. In her own video, secretly recorded before her foiled flight, Sheikha Latifa had said, “If you are watching this … either I’m dead, or I’m in a very, very, very bad situation.”

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Write to Hillary Leung at hillary.leung@time.com