Thai, Saudi Officials Meet over Case of Young Saudi Woman


Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun arrived at Bangkok's main airport on a flight from Kuwait after running away from her family, who she alleges subjected her to physical and psychological abuse.

Rahaf is now in an airport hotel, he said.

"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.

Rahaf and Human Rights Watch told AFP she was stopped by Saudi and Kuwaiti officials when she arrived in Suvarnabhumi airport and her passport was forcibly taken from her.

But as her plight pinballed across social media - including tweets about how she had barricaded herself in a hotel room - they abruptly changed course and allowed her to leave the airport on January 7 in the care of the UN's refugee agency.

Ms Alqunun flew from Kuwait and said she had a ticket onwards to Australia where she had hoped to seek asylumover fears her family would kill her for renouncing Islam.

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Her pleas for asylum have also brought worldwide attention to the obstacles women face in Saudi Arabia under male guardianship laws, which require that women, regardless of their age, have the consent of a male relative - usually a father or husband - to travel, obtain a passport or marry. She has said she fears she will be killed if she is returned to her family, which could not be reached for comment on her accusations of abuse.

Earlier, Robertson tweeted a brief video of her in her room, saying simply, " I'm not leaving my room until I see UNHCR.

The Australian embassy had contacted the Thai government and the UNHCR's Bangkok office to confirm Ms Alqunun could access the refugee process.

The New Daily is reporting that the Australian government is about to confirm it will offer the woman a humanitarian visa if her claim for asylum is approved by the UNHCR. Then Thai authorities said she didn't meet the requirements for a Thai visa.

Alex Turnbull, the son of Australia's former prime minister, also called on current Prime Minister Scott Morrison to intervene and prevent her expulsion to Saudi Arabia. In her initial social media pleas, Ms Qunun said her family was powerful in Saudi society but she did not identify them.

He appealed to Saudi and Thai officials not to follow through with their initial plan to send Aqunun back to Kuwait on Monday.

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After meeting Tuesday with officials from the Saudi Embassy, the head of Thai immigration said they told him they are satisfied with how the case of a young Saudi woman who claims to be fleeing her abusive family has been handled. "I'm in real danger because the Saudi embassy trying to forcing me to go back to Saudi Arabia, while I'm at the airport waiting for my second flight." she wrote.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, 18, was stopped in Thailand's Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok on January 5 while attempting to fly from Kuwait to Australia.

The teenager claims she was abducted and had her passport confiscated by Saudi diplomatic staff in Thailand, despite having a visa to travel to Australia.

Despite efforts by the Saudi government to curtail the scope of male guardianship laws, women who try to flee their families in Saudi Arabia have few good options inside the kingdom.

"They won't let me drive or travel". They threaten to kill me and prevent me from continuing my education.

An airline security official reported seeing her dragged out of the airport with her mouth, hands, and feet bound with duct tape.

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