In early 2019, after three years of careful planning, eighteen-year-old Rahaf Mohammed finally escaped her abusive family in Saudi Arabia—but made it only as far as Bangkok before being stripped of her passport. She knew that if she was forced to return home she would be killed, like the other rebel women in her country. As men pounded at the door of her barricaded hotel room, Rahaf created a Twitter account and reached out to the world. The world answered—she gained 45,000 followers in one day, followers who helped her seek asylum in the West.
Now, Rahaf Mohammed tells her remarkable story in her own words, revealing untold truths about life in the closed kingdom, where young women are brought up in a repressive system that puts them under the legal control of a male guardian. Raised with immense financial privilege, but under the oppressive control of her male relatives—including her high-profile politician father—Rahaf endured an abusive childhood in which repression and deceit were the norm.
Moving from Rahaf’s early days on the underground online network of Saudi runaways, who use coded entries to learn how to flee the brutalities of their homeland, to her solo escape to Canada and a new life, Rebel is a hopeful, breathtaking and life-affirming memoir about one woman’s tenacious pursuit of freedom.
Mohammed, who garnered international headlines as a teenager in 2019 when she fled Saudi Arabia and was detained by authorities in Thailand, recounts her daring path to liberation in this potent debut. The daughter of a politically powerful Sunni family, she explains that she knew from the time she was young that Saudi women were to be little more than "bodies shrouded in black bags." In harrowing depictions, Mohammed details how, as she grew, so too did the prohibitions and violent punishments; one particularly disturbing passage recounts her being repeatedly punched by her mother after being outed by a classmate for having relationships with girls. Despite this, Mohammed sought subversion, first through a "secret world" of parties where older men—including members of the religious police—plied minors with drugs, and, later, in the online underground network of Saudi women runaways who eventually helped her plan her escape to Canada through a labyrinth of "secret codes." While her death-defying act will leave readers breathless, it's Mohammed's bold unmasking of the "contradictions" of her homeland—where "tolerance and moderation" is preached, yet "anyone who doesn't agree with the government" is "behead and tortur"—that leaves an indelible mark. Her scorching indictment serves as a beacon for women worldwide yearning for freedom.