A SAUDI WOMAN WHO FLED HER FAMILY IN FEAR FOR HER LIFE WAS ADMITTED INTO THAILAND MONDAY WHILE THE UN’S REFUGEE AGENCY ASSESSES HER ASYLUM CLAIM.
BANGKOK • An 18-year-old Saudi woman who fled her family over alleged abuse and barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room in a desperate bid for asylum will be allowed to stay in Thailand while her case is evaluated by the UN refugee agency, immigration authorities said Monday.Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun grabbed global attention when she sent out pleas for help via social media, saying she feared for her life if she were put on a plane back to Kuwait or her homeland.Instead, she has been allowed to enter Thailand temporarily under the protection of the UN refugee agency, which was expected to take about five to seven days to study her case and her claim for asylum. She said she wants to go to Australia to seek refuge there.“We will not send anyone to die. We will not do that. We will adhere to human rights under the rule of law,” said Thai Immigration Police chief Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn.Alqunun’s ordeal began when she fled from her family while in Kuwait and boarded a flight to Thailand, apparently taking advantage of being away from Saudi restrictions on women who cannot travel abroad without a man’s consent.Upon arriving at Bangkok’s airport Saturday, she said she was met by a man whom she identified at various times as either a Kuwait Airways employee or a Saudi diplomat, who took her passport and said he would help her gain entry to Thailand. Saudi officials deny being involved in any way.When the man returned about an hour later with four or five others, they said they knew she had run away, that her family wanted her back, and she should go home to Saudi Arabia. She was sent to a hotel room, and told she would be put on a Monday morning flight to Kuwait.She then went online, sending out pleas for assistance over Twitter, and also barricaded her hotel room door. Global attention was sparked by social media and she did not get on the scheduled flight to Kuwait.Alqunun wrote of being in “real danger” if forced to return to her family in Saudi Arabia, and said in media interviews that she might be killed.She told the BBC that she had renounced Islam and was fearful of her father’s retaliation.
Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun
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