Two Saudi national women were found dead in their apartment in Canterbury, New South Wales, Australia, on June 7, 2022. According to local authorities, the two victims had been dead for a month.
Authorities found no signs of forced entry or foul play, and the cause of death remains a mystery. The bodies were found in an advanced state of decay, prompting the authorities to declare an inconclusive cause of death.
Horrific news. Two sisters, aged 23 & 24, found dead in a Sydney unit were reportedly Saudi asylum seekershttps://t.co/gtlLAlD2K2
— Sophie McNeill (@Sophiemcneill) June 18, 2022
However, recent developments are slowly shedding light on the plight of the two victims.
According to The Australian, sisters Asra Abdullah Alsehli, 24, and Amaal Abdullah Alsehli, 23, were denied a protection visa based on their sexuality and religious beliefs. The siblings claimed they were persecuted in Saudi Arabia.
The siblings arrived legally in Australia on a valid visa and applied for a subclass 866 protection visa. If their applications were approved, both sisters would have been classified as asylums, protected under Australian laws.
A source privy to the investigation said Amaal applied for a visa because she's a lesbian, while the older sibling, Asra, applied for the visa because she's an atheist.
Saudi sisters found dead in Sydney 'claimed asylum for sexuality and religion – but were denied' https://t.co/tZtyDnsIqW
— PinkNews (@PinkNews) August 14, 2022
Members of the LGBTQ community and individuals who identify as non-religious are extremely persecuted and abused in Saudi Arabia.
Both applications were declined due to a lack of sufficient evidence.
The Guardian reported that the two sisters attended a girls-only queer event in January. New South Wales police are looking at gender-identity-related persecutions originating from Saudi Arabia.
The sisters told their acquaintances during the queer event that "gay women live in fear in Saudi Arabia."
According to The Guardian, a woman who attended the event in January said she was able to talk to the sisters. "I noticed them keeping to themselves in a corner, looking shy, and so I went over and started talking to them," she said.
She said the sisters talked about what it is to be like a queer in Saudi. "They said women live in fear of their safety and that they were grateful to be living in Australia, where they could more freely express themselves," she added.
New South Wales police said the investigation is still ongoing, and they are communicating with the sibling's family in Saudi Arabia. The family is not considered suspects at the moment, NSW said.
In January 2019, Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun fled from her family while vacationing in Kuwait. She said her family threatened her after she declared herself an atheist. While trying to reach Australia, she arrived in Bangkok, where airport security detained her, took her passport, and told her she would be sent back to her family. She made international news when she barricaded herself in her motel room and started tweeting that she was in fear for her life. Her tweets went viral and Thai officials admitted her temporarily under UN officials. She was granted asylum in Canada.
Later that year, in November, Saudi Arabia’s state security agency released a promotional video that categorized feminism, homosexuality, and atheism as extremist ideas punishable by jail and flogging.