Published: Wed, January 09, 2019
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

Saudi Woman Running Away from Family is Now Under UNHCR Protection

Saudi Woman Running Away from Family is Now Under UNHCR Protection

Qunun was detained on arrival at Bangkok and denied entry to Thailand while en route to Australia, where she said she meant to seek asylum.

The 18-year-old barricaded herself in a room at an airport hotel in Bangkok, saying she had renounced Islam and her life was in danger from her family in Kuwait.

But while she was in the air, her influential father had alerted Saudi authorities who in turn pressured Thai authorities at Bangkok airport to seize her passport and deny her access to her connecting flight to Sydney on Saturday.

The embassy - and Thai officials - earlier also said that al-Qunun was stopped by Thai authorities in Bangkok because she did not have a return ticket, a hotel reservation or itinerary to show she was a tourist, which appeared to have raised a flag about the reasons for her trip.

"Any application by Ms Al-Qunun for a humanitarian visa will be carefully considered once the UNHCR process has concluded".

Thai immigration chief Surachate Hakparn told reporters that Qunun's father and brother had arrived in Thailand on Tuesday.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun in her hotel room.

"Please I need u all".

"She is a young Saudi woman whose face has been plastered around the world", Pearson said.

Her fate on arriving back in Saudi Arabia remains unknown.

Although Canadian officials said diplomats routinely raise human rights issues with their Saudi counterparts, the Saudi government reacted strongly to the public appeal and retaliated by freezing new trade, recalling its students from Canada and cancelling flights between the two countries.

Through her newly launched Twitter account, Rahaf has been calling on all several country to help her seek refugee status including the US, UK, Canada and Australia.

Thailand's immigration police chief met Tuesday with officials from the Saudi Embassy in Bangkok, as Saudi Arabia tried to distance itself from accusations that it tried to block a young woman's effort to flee her family and seek asylum overseas.

"The Australian government is pleased that Ms Rahaf Mohammed Al-Qunun is having her claim for protection assessed by the UNHCR", a spokesperson for Australia's Department of Home Affairs told NPR on Tuesday.

On Twitter, Rahaf has been posting updates in her situation regularly.

Activists are concerned about what Saudi Arabia will do after Thai authorities reversed a decision to expel her and allowed Qunun to enter the country under the care of the UNHCR.

She has been taken under the protection of the United Nations high commissioner for refugees in Thailand, which said processing the case and determining next steps could take several days.

"If my family come, they will kill me", she said in a video archived on Twitter. She said family members physically abused her often. "I'm shouting out for help of humanity", she tweeted.

A spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees at its Geneva headquarters, Babar Baloch, said Tuesday it's premature to say what will happen next, but that it could take several days for the agency to look into al-Qunun's claims.

Hunt said he had spoken to immigration minister David Coleman about Qunun's case late on Tuesday.

Photos released on Monday night by immigration police showed Ms Alqunun with Thai and United Nations officials after she left the airport transit hotel room where she had been holed up over the weekend, sending her pleas for help on her Twitter account.

Thai officials confiscated the 18-year-old's passport when she flew into Bangkok.

Alqunun told The New York Times that she started planning an escape when she was 16.

She said she had asserted her independence, but had been forced to pray and wear a hijab and alleged she had been beaten by her brother.

Its latest statement, which described Alqunun's case as a "family affair", said Saudi Arabia did not demand her deportation back home.

The incident comes as Saudi Arabia faces intense scrutiny over the shocking murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi a year ago, which has renewed criticism of the kingdom's rights record.

Like this: