Who is Rahaf al-Qunun, why is her life in danger?

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun

Qunun's case has drawn global attention to Saudi Arabia's strict social rules, including a requirement that women have the permission of a male "guardian" to travel, which rights groups say can trap women and girls as prisoners of abusive families. She began by boarding a plane by herself to Thailand, but the plan quickly spiraled out of control.

The Australian government said it was monitoring the case closely.

A Saudi woman who fled her family to avoid forced marriage and refused to leave a Bangkok airport hotel room to avoid deportation was granted refugee status on Wednesday by the United Nations, her friends and supporters said, clearing the way for an asylum request.

The department said it would "consider this referral in the usual way, as it does with all UNHCR referrals".

She was held in an air side hotel room while Thai officials said they would put her on the next flight back.

The impact wasn't lost on Saudi Arabia: in a video leaked Tuesday, the Saudi charge d'affaires in Thailand lamented that Alqunun's passport was confiscated rather than her mobile phone.

Qunun told the world of her dramatic plight on social media, drawing widespread support and concern, which convinced Thai authorities to back down from deporting her back to Saudi Arabia. The arrival "scared me a lot", she said Monday on Twitter.

"We have no idea what he is going to do", he said.

That makes it "100 percent" certain she will be killed by her family if she is returned to Saudi, she added.

Thai officials met with counterparts from the Kingdom on Tuesday and Maj Gen Surachate Hakparn, Thailand's immigration police chief, said that Saudi officials said they were satisfied with the handling of the case.

"The government will be making no further comment on this matter". Following global attention for her live-tweeting of her situation on 7 January she was granted temporary stay in Thailand under United Nations protection.

Australian embassy representatives in Bangkok have also coordinated with Thai authorities and the UNHCR to "seek assurances" that she will be able to access the "refugee status determination process".

Ms Alqunun was detained by Thai authorities at Bangkok airport when she arrived for a connecting flight to Australia and threatened with repatriation after she fled on a family holiday to Kuwait.

Qunun was detained on arrival at Bangkok and denied entry to Thailand while en route to Australia, where she said she meant to seek asylum.

"The Australian government is pleased that Ms Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun is having her claim for protection assessed by the UNHCR", a spokesperson told nine.com.au last night. He said it was "too early to tell" if she will be granted asylum or refugee status. It said the embassy is not communicating with the teenager, but is communicating with Thai authorities.

"Canada is very concerned by and watching closely the situation of Ms. Rahaf al-Qunun", said Stefano Maron, a spokesman for Global Affairs Canada.

Alqunun's case is similar to that of Dina Ali Lasloom, a young Saudi woman who fled to the Philippines from Kuwait in 2017. "I'm not safe yet", her account tweeted. "I'm shouting out for help of humanity", she tweeted. This would mean that she can't be sent back to them.

The teen wrote of being in "real danger" if she is forced to return to her family, posting a copy of her passport to prove her identity. She was reportedly taken to a detention center in the Saudi capital and little more regarding her location or condition is known.



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