Published: Wed, January 09, 2019
Global Media | By Jackie Banks

Teen Locks Herself in Room After Fleeing Allegedly Abusive Family

Teen Locks Herself in Room After Fleeing Allegedly Abusive Family

Footage released by Thai immigration shows Abdulilah al-Shouaibi, Saudi embassy charge d'affaires in Bangkok, complaining in a meeting yesterday with Mr Surachate that Ms Qunun's phone should have been confiscated. She claimed her life would be in danger if she was returned to her family.

Within hours, a campaign sprung up on Twitter dubbed #SaveRahaf. "She is 18 years old, she has an Australian visa, and she has the right to travel where she wishes and no government should interfere in that".

On Monday she was allowed to leave the airport in the care of the UN's refugee agency. However, Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director with Human Rights Watch, revealed that Canada "really worked very hard" to "persuade" Thailand not to expel her.

So far, family members don't appear to have commented publicly on the allegations of abuse.

Ms Qunun's desperate tweets ricocheted across social media with the #SaveRahaf hashtag drawing an outpouring of support but also the criticism of some hardliners in her native country.

The journalist, Ms Sophie McNeill of Australia Broadcast Corp, began tweeting back to Ms Qunun, and later, the two began privately corresponding by direct message.

On 7 January, Rahaf finally exited the airport escorted by the UNHCR in Thailand.

In her pleas online, the young woman specifically asked for asylum in the USA, the UK, Canada and Australia.

Rahaf also accused her family of subjecting her to physical and psychological abuse.

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.

Human Rights Watch earlier called on the Australian government to allow Qunun's entry into that country, amid worries about her visa status.

Since Australia has expressed concern in the past about women's rights in Saudi Arabia, it should "come forward and offer protection for this young woman", Pearson said.

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She is now being assessed by the UN's refugee agency.

"I'd never spoken to her before", she told Reuters.

Friends of Saudi woman Ms Alqunun claim she was nearly forced onto a flight from Thailand back to Kuwait despite seeking asylum in Australia. Alanazi noted that a representative from the Saudi embassy had arrived to the airport to accompany the young woman back as she was considered a youth. "They kept telling me they will kill me if I do something wrong-they say that since I was a child".

She was travelling to Australia on a tourist visa to seek asylum and barricaded herself in a Thai hotel room to avoid being sent home.

"We have no idea what he is going to do", he said. And if all else failed and she was forced on the Kuwait Airways jet, an activist in India was ready with a "bomb scare" tweet to stop the flight from leaving.

The flight to Kuwait City left without Ms Qunun.

Qunun has said she believes she will be imprisoned or killed if sent back, and that her family is so strict they once locked her in a room for six months for cutting her hair.

He said United Nations officials expect that the case will be concluded in a few days.

She was allowed to enter Thailand and on Tuesday began the process of seeking asylum in a third country through the United Nations refugee agency.

A Saudi woman who fled her family in hopes of seeking asylum in Australia, only to be detained in Thailand, may receive Australia's protection after all.

According to 9 News, the Australian embassy had contacted the Thai government and the UNHCR's Bangkok office to confirm Alqunun could apply for refugee status. However, in repeated statements, including one issued Tuesday, the Saudi Embassy in Thailand has said it is only monitoring her situation.

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