A female Saudi telephone operator works at the International Medical Center in Jeddah June 4, 2007.
Susan Baaghil / Reuters

Amal contacted me two years ago. She was 30 years old, a junior university professor, and she needed help. For four years her father had beaten her, locked her in her room, and threatened to stop her from working because she wanted to marry a non-Saudi professor. Now she wanted to explore a potential escape from the country of her birth, Saudi Arabia.

For a Saudi woman, personal choice is a luxury. Her decisions must conform to her male guardian’s. Only women with agreeable guardians can control their lives. The rest must live with whatever limitations their guardians dictate.

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