Saudi woman ends airport hotel standoff

10 January, 2019, 01:46 | Author: Roderick Gutierrez
  • Rahaf Al Qunun posted

Thailand yesterday reversed plans to expel an 18-year-old Saudi woman stranded at Bangkok airport after fleeing her family from Kuwait due to safety concerns, the country's immigration chief Surachate Hakparn said. "My life is in danger".

Rahaf just send me this, she just wants you to make sure she is on the hotel, and she still needs help and protection. "Since she escaped trouble to seek our help. we will not send anyone to their death", he promised.

The teenager said she wanted to avoid a forced marriage arranged by her family, whom she accused of physical and psychological abuse.

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. "I know them. They kept telling me they will kill me if I do something wrong - they say that since I was a child", she said. 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.

The United Nations refugee agency, the UNHCR, has brought a Saudi girl who has fled purported domestic abuse to Thailand under its protection for the assessment of her asylum case, following an outcry against her potential forced handover to her family.

According to Al-Qunun, they forcibly confiscated her passport and she was threatened with deportation.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch called on the Australian government to allow Alqunun's entry into that country. She told the New York Times that she had managed to escape while in Kuwait because women there are allowed to travel on their own. "We will adhere to human rights under the rule of law", said Thai Immigration Police chief Maj.

Initially, Thai authorities said Qanun would be sent back to Saudi Arabia.

Immigration officials in Thailand released photos of her after she left her hotel room late on Monday.

The UN agency said it was "very grateful" that officials in Thailand had not deported her but her asylum claim would take "several days" to assess.

The UNHCR said that according to the principle of non-refoulement, asylum seekers can not be returned to their country of origin if their life is under threat.

She then went online, sending out pleas for assistance over Twitter, and also barricaded her hotel room door.

He was speaking after meeting Abdalelah Mohammed Alsheaiby, charge d'affaires at Saudi Arabia's embassy in Bangkok, while discussing Thailand's stance on al-Qunun's much-publicised case. "Her family kept her alone in the house for - I think for more than six months - because she cut her hair", she told the BBC. Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun took to Twitter to share her story and urged people to help her survive.

Earlier reports claimed al-Qunun's father had asked the Saudi Arabia Embassy in Bangkok to detain her, while another said that she had no ticket to Australia.

Ms Qunun is understood to have fled from her family two days ago during a trip to Kuwait.

The UN refugee agency advocates that refugees and asylum seekers - having been confirmed or claimed to be in need of worldwide protection - can not be returned to their countries of origin according to the principle of non-refoulement, the statement added.

"Saudi women fleeing their families can face severe violence from relatives, deprivation of liberty, and other serious harm if returned against their will", said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.



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