This week, Saudi authorities arrested four men who have been accused of helping two women escape their family home, Sabq news site reported.
The arrests came two weeks after the women, who are sisters and in their twenties, were reported missing to police in South Hail, leading to a widespread search. The women's relatives said they were shocked by their disappearance, given that they hadn't gone through any recent familial issues or arguments.
Earlier this week, the women were found staying with the defendants in a rest stop located in a city called Barida. Police now believe they were "lured" into fleeing their homes by the four men.
The men will now be referred to public prosecution
Even though the women were found unharmed and there's no evidence to suggest they were kidnapped, the men found with them have been referred to public prosecution. They are now set to face trial in the case.
According to security sources, the women have been "handed over" to Hail police. It remains unclear whether they will be sent back home or placed in a correctional facility.
Fleeing one's home is considered a crime for women in Saudi Arabia
Due to the kingdom's male guardianship system, women in Saudi Arabia do not have the right of leaving the country, let alone their home, without permission from their male guardians (usually a father, uncle, brother, or husband).
Things are now different, even when it comes to reported cases of abuse.
Under the kingdom's guardianship system, women are subject to full dependence on their fathers, brothers, husbands, or sometimes even sons, in nearly all aspects of public life.
Over the past few years, Saudi Arabia has amended a number of laws in an effort to empower women, including a new royal decree allowing women to apply for work permits, medical, and educational services – without male consent. In recent months, another royal decree also granted women their right to drive.