Belarusian girl stuck in Saudi Arabia with little help from diplomats

Belarusian girl Anastasiya Bandarenka cannot return home from Saudi Arabia. She has spent a month in that country, and now she’s stuck in the capital, Riyadh.

On March 16, Anastasiya tried to fly to Belarus, but the day before all international flights from that country had been canceled.

“I was left here alone without family and friends, sheltered by a Muslim family I knew. They gave me accommodation and food, and despite all the religious and traditional differences, they treated me very well,” the girl told Belsat.

Since there is no Belarusian embassy in Saudi Arabia, the girl sought help from the Russian embassy. There she was told that they do not help Belarusian citizens leave the country. Then the girl went to the embassy of Belarus in the United Arab Emirates.

Diplomats from Dubai offered to lend her money

The girl notes that she has about three hundred dollars for her trip home, but the plane tickets now cost two thousand USD and more.

“I don’t think I can find that kind of money. I asked what my country could do to help me, because I live with strangers whose business is falling apart — it’s inconvenient for them to keep a stranger,” explains Anastasiya.

In 1st photo Muslim pilgrims in the Great Mosque in the Holy City of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, March 3, 2020. In 2nd photo, the Great Mosque, which is almost empty for believers, after Saudi authorities suspended a pilgrimage to Mecca because of the coronavirus pandemic. photo: GANOO ESSA / Reuters / Forum

According to Anastasiya, she spoke with an employee of the Belarusian embassy Anton Pashkou. He said that the diplomats couldn’t help due to the lack of funds and suggested contacting her family so that the family could send the money.

“I only have my Mom, and it is unlikely she’ll be able to help me financially, as she works as a lawyer, and everyone knows what wages there are in Belarus. Then they said that I or my mother could write an application for material assistance: we’ll loan you the money, they’ll send you the money to leave, but the money will have to be repaid,” Anastasiya retold the conversation with the diplomat.

“Are you getting stoned?”

The conversation with the embassy employee was emotional, remembers Anastasiya.

The embassy employee reprimanded her for her nervous tone and asked why she was afraid of being in a Muslim country: “Are you being stoned, or are you being threatened, raped or something like that?”

“Of course I talk nervously because I’m emotional, I’m just scared, I’m trying to protect myself. I’m a girl, I’m alone in a Muslim country. I mentioned the Muslim country in no way meaning that I’m being treated badly, I used that word to emphasize that there are other traditions. And whatever they say, this country has just recently opened up for tourism. He asked why I had come there at all if I knew what was happening in the world,” continues Anastasiya.

Anastasiya stresses that she left Belarus a month ago, when the situation was not tense yet. The girl was offended by this attitude of the embassy towards compatriots, as she communicates with other tourists, who have stayed in other countries, and she knows that they have planes sent for them, given money and help with hotels.

While Anastasiya is forced to stay as a guest, she refused the Foreign Ministry’s offer to borrow money.

  • In Saudi Arabia, 392 cases of coronavirus infection have been reported so far. Local authorities have decided to temporarily stop prayers at mosques on Fridays.