Father, brother of Saudi teen flying to Thailand

Minnie Murray
January 9, 2019

Rahaf Mohammed Al-Qunun, whose situation has gone viral via her Twitter feed, told Human Rights Watch that she arrived at the airport on January 5 from Kuwait, and that a representative of the Saudi embassy seized her passport to prevent her from traveling to Australia.

Ms Qunun told AFP she feared that she would be killed if she is returned to Saudi Arabia.

The 18-year-old has since left the hotel room, has regained possession of her passport and is now in the custody of Thai immigration officials.

A representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) met Qunun at the airport and was to discuss the case with Thai immigration officials.

"I'm calling for all people inside the transit area in Bangkok to protest against deporting me to Kuwait Please I need u all I'm shouting out for help of humanity", she said around two hours ago on social media site Twitter.

"My life is in danger". If the UNHCR declared her a refugee, Alqunun said she would like to be granted a humanitarian visa in Australia, Britain or Canada.

"They will kill me", she said.

"They will kill me".

"I love life and work and I am very ambitious but my family is preventing me from living".

Human Rights Watch and other campaign groups have expressed grave concerns for Ms Mohammed al-Qunun. "We are simply performing our duties" he said. She says her passport was seized and she was put in an airport hotel room and told she would have to fly Monday morning to Kuwait, from where she flew.

Initially, Thai authorities said Qunun would be sent back to Saudi Arabia.

Now based in Sydney, Nourah Alharbi, 20, said she had also fled Saudi Arabia after suffering abuse from her family. In her initial social media pleas, Qunun said her family was powerful in Saudi society but she did not identify them.

Ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia has some of the world's toughest restrictions on women, including a guardianship system that allows male family members to make decisions on behalf of female relatives.

The deeply conservative Muslim country lifted a ban on when drivers past year.

Thai immigration police chief Major General Surachate Hakparn confirmed Alqunun's case could take up to a week to assess: "We will not send anyone to die". "Since she escaped trouble to seek our help. we will not send anyone to their death", he promised.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Bangkok said it was tryingto meet Ms Qunun.

The UNHCR insists anyone with an asylum claim should not be sent back to the country they fled under the principle of non-refoulement.

Though refugee status would mean a different form of visa would be needed, Pearson said Australia's apparent cancellation of Alqunun's tourist visa was a worrying sign.

It also said the embassy had made contact with her father, a senior regional government official in the kingdom, "to inform him on her situation".

Because she did not have a visa to enter Thailand, he said police had denied her entry and were in the process of repatriating her through the same airline she had taken, Kuwait Airlines.

"They said "you have three minutes to pack, and you will be flown back to Kuwait tomorrow at 11.15am, then returned to Saudi Arabia", she told AAP.

She said she believed she was stopped after her family appealed to Kuwait Airways.

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