‘Under UN’s care’: Saudi woman ‘rescued’ from deportation after social media storm

Cheryl Sanders
January 9, 2019

The Australian government said on Tuesday that it will "carefully consider" the asylum claim by Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, who fled alleged abuse from her family and is now in the care of the United Nations humanitarian agency in Bangkok after she fended off deportation in a gripping, live-tweeted ordeal.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun has documented her bid to flee her allegedly abusive family with minute-by-minute social media updates, intensifying the global spotlight on Saudi Arabia's rights record.

He said both countries were treating the issue as a private family matter and looking for a solution together, adding the UNHCR's processes would take five days.

Thai immigration officials had initially said she should return to Kuwait.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport from Kuwait on the weekend after slipping away from a family holiday. "I'm shouting out for help of humanity", she tweeted.

But a government source told The Australian the visa had not been revoked.

"We are in close contact with partners about her situation".


Surachate said al-Qunun's father and brother were due to arrive soon in Bangkok, but that it was her decision whether to meet with them. Like Alqunun, she had set her sights on Australia and reached out for help on social media.

But who is Rahaf al-Qunun and why is her life in danger?

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.

Even though Thailand has at least 100,000 refugees within its borders, the country is not a signatory to the UNHRC and has no legal protection to those who seek asylum.

Saudi Arabia's embassy in Thailand has denied reports that Riyadh had requested the extradition of a young Saudi women seeking asylum in Thailand, the embassy said on Twitter.

"The father and brother want to go and talk to Rahaf but the United Nations will need to approve such talk", immigration chief Surachate Hakpan told reporters.

Women in Saudi Arabia are subject to male guardianship laws, which mean they need a male relative's permission to work, travel, marry, open a bank account, or even leave prison.


"I want Canada to give me asylum!" she tweeted in the early morning on Tuesday.

Alqunun's Twitter account has attracted tens of thousands of followers in less than 48 hours and her story grabbed the attention of governments, activists and well-known figures all over the world.

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.

She used a Canadian tourist's phone to send a message, a video of which was posted to Twitter, saying her family would kill her.

Alharbi mentioned the case of Dina Ali Lasloom, a 24-year-old Saudi woman who in April 2017 was returned to Saudi Arabia from the Philippines against her will and whose fate is unclear.

Saudi Arabia's human rights record has been under heavy scrutiny since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi past year.

Al-Qunun's supporters believe her visa to Australia may have been cancelled as she reportedly found she was unable to log into her Australian government immigration profile.


Other reports by iNewsToday

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