Tuesday, 22 January, 2019

#SaveRahaf: Activists' lightning campaign made Saudi teen's flight a global cause

Teen Locks Herself in Room After Fleeing Allegedly Abusive Family Rahaf al-Qunun: Dad of Saudi refugee arrives in Bangkok Thailand | Daily Star
Patty Aguilar | 09 January, 2019, 07:59

Without her family's knowledge, the young Saudi rebel obtained an Australian visa and an airline ticket to Sydney, Australia, where she meant to ask for asylum.

However, for 24 hours this young rebel had barricaded herself inside a room at a Bangkok Airport hotel, completely at the mercy of Thai authorities, who seemed to be acting at the behest of Saudi authorities and wanted Rahaf deported back to Kuwait from where she had escaped.

Human Rights Watch's Phil Robertson, in contact with Qunun since she started live-tweeting her ordeal, said her father and brother were "the two male relatives (Qunun) most fears" and could "physically harm her in an effort to compel her to return".

"The girl has violated immigration and residency laws because she does not have a return ticket or a hotel reservation, and she does not have a tourism program", the statement read.

"Any application by Ms Al-Qunun for a humanitarian visa will be carefully considered once the UNHCR process has concluded", a Department of Home Affairs official told AFP.

At 3.30pm on Monday, Thailand's immigration chief Surachate Hakparn held a press conference at the airport for dozens of Thai and global media representatives gathered in the transit area.

"This should be the standard for any individual who claims that his or her life is in danger". "Please help me." Instead, she was reportedly "dragged onto a plane from Manila to Riyadh with her mouth taped shut and her arms and legs bound".

As for providing security in light of Khashoggi's murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, he said "that's the Thai government's job and I hope that's being looked into".

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

We now know she is safe, in the care of the UN Human Rights Council in Bangkok awaiting a decision on her request for asylum in Australia or Canada.

However, Thai immigration chief Surachate Hakpan said the men would have to wait to learn whether the UN's refugee agency would allow them to.

Ms Qunun's family could not be reached to respond to her allegations of abuse. The arrival "scared me a lot", she said Monday on Twitter.

She was given her passport back and Thai authorities confirmed she had been granted temporary entry to the country.

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"The government has made representations to the Thai Government and the Bangkok office of the UNHCR about its serious concerns on this matter and the need for Ms Al-Qunun's claim to be assessed expeditiously", the spokesperson said.

Ms Alqunun said she had been abused by her family and would be killed if she returned home.

"Shouting out for help of humanity", another read.

At Bangkok's worldwide airport, security officials stopped her and confiscated her passport, which she said was later returned.

"It could take several days to process the case and determine next steps", UNHCR's Thailand representative Giuseppe de Vincentiis said in a statement.

Ms McNeill arrived in Thailand early on Monday and managed to join Ms Qunun in her hotel room.

She used a Canadian tourist's phone to send a message, a video of which was posted to Twitter, saying her family would kill her.

In a short press release distributed to media outside its embassy in Bangkok on Tuesday, the Saudi government said it had not demanded her deportation, adding the case is a "family affair", but under the "care and attention" of the embassy.

Thai immigration chief Surachet Hakparn, speaking to journalists outside the Saudi Embassy after meeting with Saudi officials in Bangkok on Tuesday, said officials are concerned about Qunun's safety and well-being.

Hunt said he had spoken to immigration minister David Coleman about Qunun's case late on Tuesday. She posted her passport details on Twitter to confirm her identity.

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.

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

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