While Qunun barricaded herself in an airport hotel room to prevent her deportation, Nourah – who did not want to reveal her full name for security reasons – walked up and down a public park in Sydney and phoned Western news agencies. She had never met Qunun before, but Nourah recently fled Saudi Arabia. She did not need to know who Qunun was to understand the urgency of her situation. Within days, Qunun was granted asylum in Canada.
"I picked up my cell phone and talked to people about Rahaf (al-Qunun) because I'm in a free country, a country that would not jail me for anything I said on the phone, Nourah told CNN.
"The case was not about Rahaf. It was about all Saudi women. If a Saudi woman had asked for my help, I would have done the same. with the same determination, "she said.
The Saudi government has denied the allegations of torture and stated that they "do not approve, promote or permit the use of torture".
For some Saudis abroad, Saudi activist Yahya Assiri said, however, he emphasized what they already suspected: the kingdom and its overseas offices were banned for critics.
"It is absolutely impossible that I would ever go to the Saudi embassy," said London-based dissident CNN shortly after the news of Khashoggi's disappearance broke. "I refused to go before and the situation in Khashoggi made my decision even clearer."
In 2013, Assiri, a former member of the Saudi Air Force, went to Britain to study human rights. A year later, he applied for asylum and is now a Saudi refugee. His status would allow him to free himself from Saudi officials, he said, eliminating the risk Khashoggi had entered on October 2 when he entered his country's consulate to obtain papers that would marry him and never again appeared.
Saudi refugees rise
The number of Saudi Arabian refugees has increased in recent years. In 1993, the first year in which cases of Saudi Arabian asylum seekers were recorded, there were seven Saudi refugees, according to the United Nations Office for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). They settled in Jordan, Greece and Sweden.
According to recent UNHCR public documents, Saudi Arabian refugees and asylum seekers had a total of 2,392 in 2017. Five countries hosted the majority of these Saudis: the United States (1,143), Canada (453), Australia (191), Great Britain (184) and Germany (147).
The number dwindled and flowed from 1993. In 2006, the peak was reached and rejuvenated in the following years. The number of Saudi Arabian refugees rose again after the Arab Spring in 2011, which triggered unrest in the eastern province of the kingdom.
However, the strongest increase in Saudi Arabian refugees and asylum seekers occurred after 2015, the year in which Prince Mohammed bin Salman was then 29, emerged on the political scene of the kingdom.
"You have people fleeing political repression, and that's very easily tied to MBS and what it did, and I think the number (of refugees and asylum seekers) you see here One indication is, "Human Rights The Middle Eastern observer, Adam Coogle, told CNN.
The Saudi authorities did not respond immediately to CNN's request.
"Certainly the political space and the open space were already very close, and in the last two years it has become much narrower, the environment would certainly provoke more Saudis for a stay abroad," said Ali Shihabi, a follower of Mohammed bin Salman and the founder of The Arabia Foundation, a Washington-based think tank. "But it's statistically insignificant."
Shihabi called the Crown Prince's tightening of political freedom a confrontation with an "increasingly polarized society" in Saudi Arabia to introduce "a very dramatic change."