Saudi teen, Rahaf Mohammed al-qunun, avoids deportation from Thailand

Saudi teen, Rahaf Mohammed Al-Qunun, avoids deportation from Thailand

Rahaf Mohammed Al-Qunun, the 18-year-old Saudi woman who fled from her family while on a holiday in Kuwait before being detained in Bangkok on Sunday, has evaded the deportation threatened that she feared would put her life at risk.

She will be allowed to stay in Thailand while her case for asylum is evaluated by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Rahaf’s plight has attracted global attention over the past 48 hours after she sent a number of tweets from the airport hotel room which she barricaded herself in.

Her messages caught the attention of human rights advocates, reporters and citizens around the world who pleaded with various authorities for asylum to be granted. She gained more than 72,000 Twitter followers in under a day.

An Australian journalist and foreign correspondent, Sophie McNeil, was in Bangkok and appears to have spent at least part of Monday with Rahaf in the hotel room until the UN stepped in.

“We will not send anyone to die. We will not do that. We will adhere to human rights under the rule of law,” the Thai Immigration Police chief Major General Surachate Hakparn said.

The facts are chilling.

Rahaf is from a powerful family and she has reportedly denounced Islam which is a serious crime in Saudi Arabia. She seized the opportunity to escape while she was in Kuwait – a country in which females are allowed to travel without a male adult – something that is forbidden in her homeland.

She bought a ticket to Australia that stopped in Thailand but when she landed in Bangkok a man purportedly from Kuwait took her passport and said she would be returned. She then holed herself up in a hotel room where she turned to social media to plead for help.

One of Rahaf’s cousins has openly threatening to kill her online since her story became known and her father travelled to Bangkok to get her.

Her situation is scarily reminiscent of another Saudi woman, Dina Ali, who escaped her homeland hoping to travel to Australia before being detained in The Philippines in April of 2017.

Despite her own pleas on social media for an intervention she was returned to Saudi Arabia and has never been heard from since.

Rahaf appears to be safe from deportation for now. Ideally a third country will step in quickly as she has been promised. It is good news when considering the depth of Rahaf’s fear about returning home and yet it is devastating to consider that a woman of just 18 years of age can face such terror and fear in her home country that fleeing her family and the only life she has ever known is the safest available option.

It is a sobering reminder of the oppression under which too many girls and women still live.

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