Thursday, 17 January, 2019

Who is Rahaf al-Qunun, why is her life in danger?

Rahaf had said her family would kill her if she was sent back Rahaf had said her family would kill her if she was sent back
Ellis Copeland | 09 January, 2019, 09:16

In the early hours of Sunday, Jan. 6, Rahaf began tweeting for help: "I'm in real danger because the Saudi embassy trying to forcing (sic) me to go back to Saudi Arabia, while I'm at the airport waiting for my second flight", she tweeted to the world.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said "the claims made by Ms al-Qunun that she may be harmed if returned to Saudi Arabia are deeply concerning".

The UNHCR in Bangkok has been contacted for comment but has yet to respond.

The 18 year old was stopped by officials in Thailand who confiscated her passport.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, ran away from her family while they were on a trip to Kuwait and is now hoping to seek asylum in Australia. But as her desperate calls for help quickly attracted human rights campaigners and United Nations refugee staffers intervened, they promised not to deport her. However, Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director with Human Rights Watch, revealed that Canada "really worked very hard" to "persuade" Thailand not to expel her.

"We have no idea what he is going to do. whether he will try to find out where she is and go harass her".

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, the first Australian MP to call for Australia to provide refuge to Ms al-Qunun, said it was "time to bring this courageous young woman to Australia to start her life as a free woman". Like Alqunun, she had set her sights on Australia and reached out for help on social media.

The Saudi Arabian embassy in Bangkok has denied it impounded her passport or has the authority to detain her in Thailand, but claimed she was legally required to be deported.

The decision marks a significant victory for the 18-year-old, who is now in Bangkok where she says Thai authorities attempted to block her from travelling to Australia to claim asylum.

Her ordeal at the Bangkok airport riveted social media as she posted videos and constantly updated her followers while barricading herself in her hotel room.

Saudi Woman Running Away from Family is Now Under UNHCR Protection

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.

Robertson told CBC's As it Happens that the 18-year old was confined to her room for nearly six months.

After leaving the airport, al-Qunun reiterated that she would like to seek asylum in Canada.

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

"She's an adult woman who has escaped Saudi Arabia's repressive and discriminatory "guardianship" laws and these men must recognize the rules have changed", he said, adding it is "solely her decision" whether or not to meet them. "We will not send anyone to die".

Saudi activists say the kingdom, through its embassies overseas, has at times put pressure on border patrol agents in foreign countries to deport the women back to Saudi Arabia.

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.

He said the Thai government "needs to explain why diplomats from Saudi Arabia are allowed to walk in closed areas of the Bangkok airport, seizing one of their citizen's passports".

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has not asked for her extradition".

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

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