Published: Thu, January 10, 2019
World Media | By Cesar Oliver

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun: Saudi teenager who fled family granted United Nations refugee status

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun: Saudi teenager who fled family granted United Nations refugee status

Thailand initially said it would deport her at the request of Saudi Arabian embassy officials, barring her from traveling on to Australia where al-Qunun said she had meant to claim asylum.

Those claims were among the reasons she gave for fleeing, Thailand's Immigration Police chief said after meeting him Wednesday.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told reporters on Wednesday - before the referral was confirmed - that Australia would consider any referrals from the United Nations but Ms al-Qunun would not receive any "special treatment".

She remains under the protection of Thai police. She told Reuters she was fleeing her family's "physical, emotional and verbal abuse", adding she was restricted from travel and continuing her education.

The Bangkok-based spokeswoman for UNCHR neither confirmed nor denied that Alqunun had been granted refugee status, and said it was unlikely that the agency would be providing further updates on her case.

"When she first arrived in Thailand, she opened a new site (account) and the followers reached about 45,000 within one day", a Saudi official speaking in Arabic through a translator tells Thai officials in the video. She left the airport after two days in the custody of the refugee agency, which said it would consider her request for refugee status.

"The father and brother want to go and talk to Rahaf but the United Nations will need to approve such talk", General Surachate told reporters according to AAP. Gen. Surachate Hakparn, at right, on her way out of Suvarnabhumi Airport on Monday in Bangkok. In a video clip of the meeting released by Thai immigration police, Alsheaiby is heard telling Thai officials: "From the moment she arrived, she opened a new account and her followers reached nearly 45,000 in a day. and I would have preferred it better if her phone was taken instead of her passport". Her friends said she had suffered abuse at their hands.

Qunun said she planned to seek asylum in Australia, fearing she would be killed if repatriated by Thai immigration officials who stopped her at the airport. Qunun, a daughter of a senior regional government official, also revealed that Saudi and Kuwaiti officials confiscated her passport upon her arrival. She publicized her case via social media, saying she feared for her safety if made to return home to her family.

A Tuesday statement from the Saudi Embassy in Thailand denied interfering in Alqunun's case, and said it was only monitoring her situation.

The case has also underscored the limits of the reforms being pushed by Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman as he struggles to fix the damage afflicted to his reputation after the grisly killing three months ago of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in Istanbul.

"I am scared. My brother told me that he's waiting with some Saudi men".

"I'm afraid, my family WILL kill me."
My family do this, I know them. Human rights activists say many more similar cases will have gone unreported.

Her story grabbed the attention of foreign governments and the UNHCR.

The UNHCR has since assessed her case and found she is a refugee.

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

After being informed by immigration that she would be placed on a flight back to Kuwait, the young woman barricaded herself in her airport hotel room and began launching a barrage of appeals to the Twittersphere.

She later posted to Twitter on January 8 that her passport had been returned and she felt safe under UNHCR protection.

The UNHCR office in Thailand also declined to comment.

The department said that it will...

"Shorten did write to the prime minister on Tuesday indicating that if she had a valid claim we support their efforts to offer her settlement in Australia". "The embassy considers this issue a family matter".

Among other things, these restrictions force women to be accompanied on their trips by a guardian, typically their fathers, brothers, husbands or uncles.

Thailand, where al-Qunun now is, has not signed up to these rules.

Like this: