Rights group urges Thailand not to deport Saudi woman fleeing her family

Rahaf Al Qunun posted

Image Rahaf Alqunun posted this

"They gave their word that she would remain in their custody & that she is now safe".

Rights groups including Human Rights Watch have expressed grave concerns for Ms Mohammed al-Qunun, who had travelled to Thailand for a connecting flight to Australia, where she hoped to seek asylum.

Although she claims to have an Australian visa, she says a Saudi diplomat met her upon landing in Suvarnabhumi airport and seized her passport.

Qunun has been barricaded in an airport hotel room in the Thai capital.

A representative from the Saudi embassy in Thailand said there was no one available to comment. "They threaten to kill me and prevent me from continuing my education", she said.

It's for these reasons she believes her life would be in danger if she was to return to her home country. The woman revealed that she wanted to seek a refugee status in "any country that would protect me from getting harmed or killed due to leaving my religion and torture from my family".

"I have been threatened by the people who have been assigned by the Saudi embassy and the Kuwaiti airlines, and they have told me ... I know them. They kept telling me they will kill me if I do something wrong - they say that since I was a child".

Thai lawyers, working pro-bono, on Monday filed an injunction against deporting the young woman, and charged that she had been wrongfully detained.

The shelters say they offer women psychiatric care and therapy, but do not take in women who, for example, are pregnant out of wedlock.

Immigration police chief Surachate contradicted parts of Alqunun's story, including her claim that she had an Australian visa.

Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn said at a news conference at Bangkok's main global airport on Monday that Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun will be allowed to meet United Nations refugee officials.

Thai officials had said Qunun would be sent back but the Kuwait Airways flight departed Monday without her, according to Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Although Thai immigration officials initially attempted to return the young women to her family in the Middle East, they have since vowed to allow her to stay.

"Her passport was not impounded by the Saudi embassy", it said, adding that she was stopped by Thai authorities for "violating the law".

The deeply conservative Muslim country lifted a ban on when drivers past year.

He told Okaz that the embassy in touch with the Thai authorities to ensure her return to the country. Court should consider quickly because time is short & she faces dire peril if sent back from #Thailand.

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, and that it has been trying to seek access to Qunun.

She said she was once locked in a room for six months because she had cut her hair in a way that her family did not approve of.

The Australia Broadcasting Corp. reported initially that Thai officials had blocked United Nations officials from visiting the teenager and that an injunction had been filed by local lawyers to stop her deportation. She said she planned to spend a few days in Thailand so she would not spark suspicion when she left Kuwait. "Since she escaped trouble to seek our help, we are the Land of Smiles, we will not send anyone to their death", Thailand's Immigration Police Chief, Surachet Hakpal, said at a news conference on Monday.

"Given Saudi Arabia's long track record of looking the other way in so-called honor violence incidents, her worry that she could be killed if returned cannot be ignored", Robertson told AFP.

Saudi women like Dina Ali Lasloom who was stopped in the Philippines, two Saudi sisters who fled to Turkey, and now Rafah Alqunun in Thailand have all used Twitter and social media to raise awareness of their plight and ask for help.

The girl, 18 year old Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, was on a family holiday in Kuwait when she chose to run away.

"She was over-exaggerating. She fled her family from Saudi Arabia and arrived in Thailand but she didn't have necessary documents to enter".

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