When a tweep who goes by the name Mary M started a "major appearance changes" thread on Twitter, she had no idea just how major one change might be to one's life.
When Rahaf Mohammed, the Canada-based 18-year-old Saudi woman who fled the kingdom in 2019, stumbled upon the tweet, she couldn't resist sharing her before-and-after photos with the world.
Unlike people who posted "long hair/short hair" or "geeky look/goth look" photos, Mohammed took the term "180-degree change" to the maximum. Her before photo shows her in a niqab with only her eyes showing while her after in a bikini with a tattoo on her arm.
"From being forced to wear black sheets and being controlled by men to being a free woman," the face of #SaveRahaf tweeted along with the photos.
Fleeing a conservative country like Saudi Arabia comes with baggage and threats.
Even if the kingdom is tipping its hidebound scale to become slightly more lenient with an entertainment sector that never existed before, its people still hold conservative views ... and bikini and tattoos, let alone fleeing one's family, remain frowned upon.
It is only natural to read through the replies left under Mohammed's tweet and find them filled with hate speech, with some "well-meaning" Muslims wishing her a return to her religion.
Some Muslim women tried to lecture the terminology she used in her caption
Others questioned her definition of freedom
"Now men can easily smash you," replied one man
"Niqab was never a punishment for us, but may God give your parents some peace and bring you back to Him"
"Nobody forced you to wear anything"
Rahaf was granted asylum in Canada in a gripping fight for freedom back in 2019
Mohammed - formerly known as Rahaf Mohammed Mutlaq al-Qunun - was on a trip to Kuwait with her family when she fled on a connecting flight to Bangkok, Thailand, but failed to reach Australia to seek asylum there on Jan. 5, 2019.
Upon landing in Thailand, her family had already notified the kingdom's embassies in both Kuwait and the Southeast Asian country of her escape attempt. Though she had an Australian visa at the time, her passport was seized by a Saudi diplomat who was waiting for her when she arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport.
A series of tweets she had posted online while stuck at the Bangkok airport helped her gain worldwide attention, which later contributed to her escape plan. Mohammed wanted to break free from her family who reportedly constantly abused her and threatened to kill her for leaving Islam.
On Jan. 11, 2019, Mohammed was officially granted asylum in Canada after the country accepted a request from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Upon her arrival in Toronto, Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland introduced her to press as "a very brave new Canadian."
Saudi Arabia is attempting to slowly dismantle the male guardianship system that's keeping women imprisoned
In August 2019, the kingdom passed new laws that loosen restrictions on women, particularly when it comes to travel and family affairs.
Under the royal decrees, Saudi women over the age of 21 will no longer need the permission of a male guardian to travel. They will also be allowed to independently apply for passports, register a marriage, divorce, or child's birth, and obtain official family documents. Additionally, the new laws stipulate that either a father or a mother can be the legal guardian of a child.
The royal decrees also expand work opportunities for women, emphasizing that "all citizens have the right to work without facing any discrimination based on gender, disability or age."
Still, women continue to require male consent to get married, live on their own, or leave prison or domestic abuse shelters. They are also not entitled to pass on citizenship to their children nor provide consent for the latter to marry.