Saudi woman held in Bangkok fears she will be killed if repatriated

Rahaf Al Qunun posted

Image Rahaf Alqunun posted this

Thai authorities have so far prevented Al-Qunun from having access to UNHCR to make a refugee claim even though it is evident she is seeking worldwide protection.

Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch Asia Deputy Director, told SBS News she was in a "desperate state" and was facing a "dire situation" as she faces deportation.

The incident comes against the backdrop of intense scrutiny of Saudi Arabia over its investigation and handling of the shocking murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi previous year, which has renewed criticism of the kingdom's rights record.

In a video shared 15 hours ago, she showed how authorities were keeping her under close watch.

The young woman said she had been abused by her family and would be killed if she returns home.

"I'm calling for all people inside the transit area in Bangkok to protest against deporting me to Kuwait", she tweeted today.

On Twitter, she wrote of being in "real danger" if forced to return to her family under pressure from Saudi authorities.

"We are very concerned about Rahaf Mohammed and we are in contact with the Thai authorities and the embassies of the countries she has approached", he said on his verified Twitter account.

"She bought the ticket herself yesterday, she is waiting to board (the flight to) Saudi Arabia", he said of the Kuwait Airways flight to Kuwait due to depart at 11.15am (0415 GMT).

A Saudi teenager says she was held against her will at an airport in Thailand while trying to flee her oppressive family.

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"What is truly appalling is how the Saudi Arabian government has acted in sending an official to physically seize her passport from her in Bangkok airport worldwide transit", he said. According to The Daily Mail, her father had told an airport employee official via messaging app Whatsapp that she was mentally ill but did not provide evidence when asked.

Rahaf Mohammed Mutlaq Alqunun, 18, claims she had her passport confiscated by Saudi Arabian diplomatic staff on arrival at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport on Sunday.

Qunun told Reuters she fled Kuwait while her family was visiting the Gulf country and had planned to travel from Thailand to Australia to seek asylum.

"She was over-exaggerating. She fled her family from Saudi Arabia and arrived in Thailand but she didn't have necessary documents to enter". "I ask the police in Thailand to start my asylum process". Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, shared one such video on Monday afternoon where Rahaf claimed men were outside her hotel room door, but she was refusing to leave until she can meet with the United Nations refugee agency. "I'm shouting out for help of humanity".

Ms Qunun was on her way to Australia when she was reportedly stopped from entering Thailand at Suvarnabhumi airport when she flew from Kuwait on Sunday.

"Thai authorities should immediately halt any deportation, and either allow her to continue her travel to Australia or permit her to remain in Thailand to seek protection as a refugee", Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement on Monday.

Thai police Major General Surachate Hakparn told the BBC that Ms Mohammed al-Qunun was escaping a marriage.

Saudi Arabia has come under fierce criticism following the murder of dissident journalist Khashoggi inside the kingdom's Istanbul consulate on Oct 2 - a case that stunned the world.

She was apprehended at Manila airport in the Philippines and later dragged onto a flight to the Saudi capital Riyadh, her mouth taped shut and her arms and legs bound.

He compared her case to that of Dina Ali Lasloom, who was detained by Saudi officials in Manila when she tried to seek asylum in Australia in April a year ago.

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