Runaway Saudi woman ‘under the care’ of UN

Posted January 10, 2019

Rahaf Mohammed al Qunun says she ran away from her family while travelling in Kuwait because they subjected her to physical and psychological abuse. "This should be the standard for any individual who claims that his or her life is in danger". She says her passport was seized and she was put in an airport hotel room and told she would have to fly Monday morning to Kuwait, from where she flew. We are still waiting to find out if Rahaf's asylum application will be accepted once she reaches Australia.

"She is under the care of the UNHCR now but we also sent Thai security to help take care [of her]", Surachate told reporters at Suvarnabhumi airport.

Ms Hanson-Young said Australia should offer "sanctuary" to Ms Qunan so she can live in a country that "respects women and girls".

Surachate also said if Thai authorities decide not to send her back to Saudi Arabia, they would have to provide their reasons to Saudi authorities in order not to not affect the countries' relations.

She said: "My parents have just arrived, I'm scared, and I want to go to another country, but I'm safe now under the protection of Thai authorities and the United Nations".

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The 18-year-old identified herself as Rahaf Mohammed Mutlaq Al-Qunun on an unverified Twitter account.

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch, said the move by Ms Alqunun's father was concerning. She would sound upbeat and tell me about her plans to escape "once her brother travelled abroad", or when the family visited France on holiday.

Immigration chief Surachate Hakparn initially echoed the sentiment, but said at a press conference hours later that al-Qunun would not be forcibly deported after all. She said the pair knew each other from an online group for Saudi feminists, and that she herself had "escaped" Saudi Arabia because she is "an ex-Muslim".

Qunun had posted a video of her barricading her hotel room door with furniture.

"The government has made representations to the Thai government and the Bangkok office of the UNHCR about its serious concerns on this matter and the need for Al-Qunun's claim to be assessed expeditiously, " the official said.

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Alqunun has said she believes she will be imprisoned or killed if sent back, and that her family is so strict it once locked her in a room for six months for cutting her hair.

However, Ms Mohammed al-Qunun insisted she had a visa for Australia, and that she never wanted to stay in Thailand.

Authorities were going to deport her to Kuwait, where she left her vacationing family, but she barricaded herself in a hotel room at the airport and demanded to speak to United Nations officials. If the UNHCR declared her a refugee, Alqunun said she would like to be granted a humanitarian visa in Australia, Britain or Canada.

He later said Kuwait Airways had been at fault for allowing her to board her flight to Thailand without having proper travel documents. She was forced to return to Saudi Arabia and was not publicly heard from again, according to activists tracking her whereabouts.

Earlier Thai immigration authorities denied Qunun's allegations that they were acting at the behest of the Saudi government, saying she was refused entry to Thailand on Saturday night because she did not have the proper documents for a visa on arrival. "Thai authorities should immediately halt any deportation, and either allow her to continue her travel to Australia or permit her to remain in Thailand to seek protection as a refugee".

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Another Saudi woman, Dina Ali Lasloom, was stopped in transit in the Philippines in April 2017 when she attempted to flee her family.