THE Ministry of Labor and Social Development said over 1,750 girls have run away from their homes and 67 percent of them were non-Saudis. The teenagers accounted for the largest percentage at 65 percent followed by victims of domestic violence at 35 percent, according to the ministry’s statistics report. Jeddah and Makkah registered the highest number of runaway girls followed by Riyadh and Eastern Province, Al-Riyadh daily reported.
Dr. Abdullah Al-Yousef, a former sociology professor at Imam University, said many studies blamed disintegrating families and parental negligence for the runaway cases. Some girls went astray because their parents neglected them and did not take good care of them.
The National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) received last year over 2,000 complaints from victims of domestic violence filed by young women. When a girl lives with parents who fight all the time and do not pay attention to her, she will eventually run away from this life of discord and acrimony.
“Thanks to Allah the cases are not that many but sociology experts should study and analyze these cases and identify the real psychological reasons that drive young women to run away. We already know some of the common causes but we still need to identify more in order to find drastic solutions to the problem,” he stressed.
Reham Sabeeha, a sociology expert, agreed that the majority of girls run away from home because something has made them do it. They do not just wake up one day and decide to run away. Any home environment that does not provide security and warmth to girls or treats girls cruelly will drive most girls, who live in it, to escape, searching for absolute freedom and a better environment.
“The Ministry of Labor and Social Development should form committees of sociology and psychology experts and assign each committee to study the cases of runaway girls in each city that has reported such cases. It is important that experts listen carefully to the runaway girls in order to put their finger on the real causes in each cases,” she explained.
Abdulmonem Al-Hussain, a family counselor, warned parents against ostracizing their daughters and not opening up their hearts to them and listening to them.
“I cannot stress enough the importance of dialogue and holding conversations with one’s daughter and making her feel secure and reassured. I believe some parents need counseling courses explaining to them how to deal with their teenage girls. The teenage period is sensitive and parents should know how to embrace their daughter and making her feel important,” he said.
Dr. Ahmad Albo-Ali, a mosque imam, said many parents do not report their runaway girls for fear that they would be stigmatized by society. In his opinion, the best way to ensure that one’s girl won’t think about running away from home one day is to instill in her mind strong religious values at an early age.
Parents should not let their girl hang out with bad company and should spend more time with them and do various activities together.
Husa Al-Saad, a psychologist, blamed the influence of Westernization and globalization for this problem.
Some teenagers get influenced by the unlimited freedom of the Western World and attempt to rebel against the environment they live in. Her advice to parents is not to force their sons and daughters to live the same life they lived because times and circumstances change.