Rahaf al-Qunun: Saudi woman ‘trapped at Bangkok airport trying to flee family’
Rahaf al-Qunun detained in Bangkok won’t be immediately deported, Thai officials say, citing safety concerns
“My family threatens to kill me for the most trivial things,” Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun said.
A young Saudi woman detained in a Thailand airport after fleeing her family in fear for her life, will not be forcibly deported, Thailand immigration authorities said, citing safety concerns.
Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, 18, was on holiday with her family in Kuwait when she fled to Bangkok, hoping to make it onward to Australia to seek asylum. Thai authorities have detained her at an airport hotel in Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, and had planned to send her back to Kuwait on a flight departing at 11:15 a.m. local time.
Alqunun, however, barricaded herself in her room, and demanded to meet with the U.N.’s refugee agency. At the time of the plane’s departure, a friend posting on Twitter on her behalf said she remained in her hotel room, which is inside the airport’s transit area past security and immigration checkpoints.
Earlier, Thai immigration officials wanted to return Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, to Kuwait, where her family is.
She refused to board a flight to Kuwait City on Monday, despite officials stationed outside her room.
“My brothers and family and the Saudi embassy will be waiting for me in Kuwait,” the teenager told Reuters.
“They will kill me. My life is in danger. My family threatens to kill me for the most trivial things.”
Rights groups including Human Rights Watch have expressed grave concerns over Ms Mohammed al-Qunun’s welfare.
“She has barricaded herself in the room & says she will not leave” until she is allowed to meet the UN refugee agency and claim asylum, Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said on Twitter.
#Kuwait Air flight KU412 has now departed #Bangkok without #Rahaf on board, so this is an important victory for her, & a real tribute to her courage. She is demanding #UNHCR be allowed to see her, but so far #Thailand is not agreeing to that. #SaveRahaf @Refugees @UNHCRThailand pic.twitter.com/o6ZiRxhZry
— Phil Robertson (@Reaproy) January 7, 2019
Mr Robertson said Thai lawyers have filed an injunction in Bangkok criminal court “to prevent the deportation of Rahaf to Kuwait”, adding: “time is short & she faces dire peril”.
How was the world alerted?
Ms Mohammed al-Qunun started attracting attention with her social media posts over the weekend. She has also given a friend access to her Twitter account, calling it a contingency in case anything should happen to her.
She said, she was in a hotel in the transit area.
“I shared my story and my pictures on social media and my father is so angry because I did this… I can’t study and work in my country, so I want to be free and study and work as I want,” 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.
Ms Mohammed al-Qunun wrote on Twitter that she had decided to share her name and details because she had “nothing to lose” now.
She has asked for asylum from governments around the world.
I seek protection in particular from the following country
Canada/United States/ Australia /United kingdom, I ask any if it Representatives to contact me.
— Rahaf Mohammed رهف محمد القنون (@rahaf84427714) January 6, 2019
A photo appeared of her in her room as officials reportedly stood outside, waiting to put her on a flight back to Kuwait.