Popular Saudi Arabia woman was trapped at Airport on her way to Australia.
A young Saudi woman who says she has renounced Islam and could be killed if she returns home is trapped in Bangkok and faces the prospect of being returned to the Middle East against her will.
Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, says she was on a trip to Kuwait with her family when she fled on a flight two days ago. She explained she tried to head to Australia, via Bangkok, to seek asylum but had her passport seized by a Saudi official.
Ms Rahaf claims that in addition to confiscating her passport, Saudi officials forcibly took her to the Miracle Transit Hotel at the airport, where she is being held until they take her home. Thai police, she said, had refused to help her.
In a series of Tweets in Arabic and English Ms Rahaf claims that ‘her life will be in real danger’ if she is forced to return to Saudi Arabia.
A Thai official confirmed to a news agency today that an 18-year-old Saudi woman seeking asylum was denied entry to Thailand and held in Bangkok’s airport.
Thailand’s immigration chief Surachate Hakparn told AFP: ‘Rahaf Mohammed M Alqunun ran away from her family to avoid marriage and she is concerned she may be in trouble returning to Saudi Arabia’.
He added that Thai authorities contacted the ‘Saudi Arabia embassy to coordinate’.
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.
‘They took my passport,’ she told AFP, adding that her male guardian had reported her for traveling ‘without his permission’.
Rahaf said she was trying to flee her family, who subjected her to physical and psychological abuse.
‘My family is strict and locked me in a room for six months just for cutting my hair,’ she said, adding that she is certain she will be imprisoned if she is sent back.
‘I’m sure 100 percent they will kill me as soon as I get out of the Saudi jail,’ she said, adding that she was ‘scared’ and ‘losing hope’.
Rahaf was stopped from entering Thailand when she flew in from Kuwait on Sunday, Thailand’s immigration chief Surachate Hakparn told AFP.
‘She had no further documents such as return ticket or money,’ he said, adding that Rahaf was currently in an airport hotel.
‘She ran away from her family to avoid marriage and she is concerned she may be in trouble returning to Saudi Arabia. We sent officials to take care of her now,’ he said.
He added that Thai authorities had contacted the ‘Saudi Arabia embassy to coordinate’.
But Rahaf disputed his account, saying that she was in transit to seek asylum in Australia, where she claimed to have a visa, and was accosted by Saudi and Kuwaiti embassy representatives when she deplaned in Suvarnabhumi airport.
Human Rights Watch Asia deputy director Phil Robertson said: ‘What country allows diplomats to wander around the closed section of the airport and seize the passports of the passengers?’
He added that there is ‘impunity’ within the family unit in Saudi Arabia to abuse women.
Thailand’s immigration chief Surachate Hakparn said Rahaf would be sent back to Saudi Arabia by Monday morning, adding, ‘It’s a family problem’.
In a tweet Ms al-Qunun said: ‘I have been detained in an airport hotel. I will be forcibly repatriated tomorrow to Kuwait and then Saudi.
‘There is an airport person who constantly follows me. I can’t even ask for protection or asylum in Thailand . Thai police refuse to help me.’