Saudi sisters found dead may have feared persecution over sexuality


saudi sisters sydney flat found dead
Image: NSW Police

A Sydney woman has claimed she met two Saudi sisters – later found dead – earlier this year at a queer event at which they discussed LGBTQ+ persecution in Saudi Arabia.

Asra Abdullah Alsehli, 24, and Amaal Abdullah Alsehli, 23, were found dead in their beds in the Sydney apartment.

NSW Police said the women had been dead for more than a month when they were found on June 7.

But mystery surrounds their cause of death, with police reporting no signs of injury to the women’s bodies or forced entry to the Canterbury flat.

The women arrived in Australia in 2017. They had active claims for asylum with the Department of Home Affairs in Australia. However, the nature of the claims isn’t known.

NSW Police are said to be investigating whether one or both of the sisters feared persecution over their sexuality in Saudi Arabia, The Guardian reported.

The Sydney woman came forward to police after she met the pair at a queer women’s event earlier this year.

The woman told The Guardian the sisters “kept to themselves” at the party. But after she struck up conversation, they discussed the oppression queer people face in Saudi Arabia.

“I noticed them keeping to themselves in a corner, looking shy. So I went over and started talking to them,” she said.

“They mentioned that they were from Saudi Arabia. We talked about what it is like to be queer there.

“They said women live in fear of their safety and that they were grateful to be living in Australia. [Here] they could more freely express themselves.”

The woman said she “got the impression” the Saudi sisters “very rarely go out and hadn’t explored much of Sydney.”

“What’s terribly sad is they told me they were excited to be out at an event like this,” she said.

“And that they were ready to start exploring more of Sydney. They should have been safe in Australia.”

‘One of the Saudi sisters was queer’

The queer Sydney woman came forward to police when she saw the Saudi sisters’ photo in the media.

She told The Guardian the police wanted to speak to her to glean any details about the sisters seemingly “reclusive lifestyle, especially recently”.

The Sydney woman has alleged that NSW Police were certain one of the sisters identified as queer.

“They did confirm to me that they knew one of the sisters was queer,” the woman said.

“But they weren’t sure about the other.”

The woman said she felt compelled to come forward after hearing about the sisters’ tragic deaths.

“We spoke about how unsafe it is for Saudi women to be openly gay and that that would put a target on their back,” she said.

“So I wanted to make sure that the police were aware that at least one of the sisters were openly exploring their queer sexuality.”

The woman said the information could help uncover what happened to them.

NSW Police continue to appeal for information

A NSW Police spokesperson told The Guardian, “As the investigation is ongoing, police continue to appeal for information in relation to the death of the two women.”

The spokesperson would not confirm new media reports claiming police believe the women died in a suicide pact.

They said “no further information is available at this stage” on whether that was a potential line of inquiry.

The investigation into the two sisters’ deaths in Sydney continues.

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