Published: Mon, January 07, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Saudi woman 'trapped at Bangkok airport trying to flee family'

Saudi woman 'trapped at Bangkok airport trying to flee family'

Thai immigration authorities said Qunun was refused entry because she did not have the proper documents.

On social media she claimed she was being held at an airport hotel by diplomatic and airline staff, despite having a visa to travel to Australia.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, says she is trying to flee her family, and that Saudi authorities took her passport on arrival in Thailand.

Alqunun told Human Rights Watch she was fleeing abuse from her family, including beatings and death threats from her male relatives who forced her to remain in her room for six months for cutting her hair.

If sent back, she said she will likely be imprisoned, and is "sure 100 percent" her family will kill her, she told AFP.

She said Saudi and Thai officials then told her she would be returned to Kuwait on Monday, where her father and brother are awaiting her.

For all these reasons, Alqunun is convinced if she were to return to Saudi Arabia, her life would be in danger.

A Saudi woman is pleading for help as officials in Thailand try to return her to her family, who she claims will kill her.

Qunun said she had obtained an Australian visa and booked a flight.

He argued that the Thai authorities had clearly co-operated with Saudi Arabia as Saudi officials were able to met the plane when it arrived.

She said she had planned to travel to Australia and seek asylum there, and feared she would be killed if she was repatriated by Thai immigration officials, who stopped her during transit on Sunday.

The ex-Muslim detailed her plight on Twitter, saying: "Because I got nothing to lose I'm going now to share me real name and my all information".

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"However, UNHCR consistently advocates that refugees and asylum seekers, having been confirmed or claimed to be in need of global protection, can not be returned to their countries of origin according to the principle of non-refoulement, which prevents states from expelling or returning persons to a territory where their life or freedom would be threatened".

"When I landed at the airport, someone came and said he would process the [Thai] visa but he took my passport". "I tried but there's a security [official] watching me".

"They should allow UNHCR to make a determination whether she is a refugee or not and abide by that", said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch.

HRW's Robertson said she "faces grave harm if she is forced back to Saudi Arabia", and that Thailand should allow her to see the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and apply for asylum.

"It's a family problem", he said of the case. I'm a Saudi girl who fled from her family.

For runaway Saudi women - to whom Saudi law grants male relatives legal guardianship even if they are adults - fleeing can be a matter of life and death, and they are nearly always doing so to escape male relatives.

Rehaf wanted to travel to Australia where she wanted to seek asylum, fearining that her abusive family will kill her if she returns.

"We have contacted Saudi Arabia's foreign ministry in order to send her back to her country of origin", Thai Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters.

The ultra-conservative kingdom has always been attacked for imposing some of the world's toughest restrictions on women.

Saudi Arabia has always been under the spotlight for its appalling record on women's rights, including a guardianship system that allows men to control the lives of their female relatives.

In addition to facing punishment for "moral" crimes, women can become the target of "honor killings" at the hands of their families, activists say.

The case follows the major worldwide backlash against the Saudi regime over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey.

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