A young woman has sought the support of the international community as she seeks to prevent deportation back to her home country, Saudi Arabia.
The young woman, Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, claims she flees from home as she renounces Islam, a religion strongly supported by her father and the rest of the family. Her other strong claim is that she will be killed should she be deported back home.
Officials in Bangkok, Thailand, however, insists this is a family issue and dismisses Qunun’s claims and concerns. Qunun (18), managed to escape during a family vacation in Kuwait. While at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, the teenager was forced to fly back home and stopped from flying to Australia, her preferred ‘new home.’
The prevention was done by Saudi and Kuwaiti officials at the airport who took away her valid passport in Thailand. She arrived at the airport on Sunday. Qunun later posted a photo of herself in the hotel room, showing a blockaded door with a bed, chair, and a desk. She pleaded with the international community to assist.
Qunun barricading herself in the hotel room.
According to the Daily Mail, Thai officials said this was a “family issue.”
Reuters reports that Thailand immigration authorities denied Qunun’s allegations they were acting under the instructions of Saudi officials. The Thailand immigrations officials’ claim is that Qunun lacked proper documents upon her arrival in the country.
The hashtag, #SaveRafah, was started by activists and volunteers on Twitter in a drive to get Thai officials from deporting her back to her home country.
Along with thousands of support tweets, Qunun shared a post claiming his brother and some family members threatened her to slaughter.
“They will take me to Saudi Arabia and my father will kill me because he is so angry. He will kill me. My family does this. I know them,” she said.
“I have been threatened by several staff member from the Saudi embassy and the Kuwaiti airlines, and they said “If you run, we will find you and kidnap you, then deal with you,” she said in another tweet.
Video from @rahaf84427714 just sent from her hotel room at the #Bangkok airport. She has barricaded herself in the room & says she will not leave until she is able to see #UNHCR. Why is #Thailand not letting @Refugees see her for refugee status determination? @hrw #SaveRahaf pic.twitter.com/3lb2NDRsVG
— Phil Robertson (@Reaproy) January 7, 2019
New York-based Human Rights Watch urged Thailand not to send Qunun back to her family due to her life danger as an adult. According to Saudi law, leaving Islam is punishable by death.
“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,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
Surachate Hakparn, immigration chief for Thailand, told AFP: “She ran away from her family to avoid marriage and she is concerned she may be in trouble returning to Saudi Arabia.
“Thai authorities contacted the Saudi Arabia embassy to coordinate,” he added.
NOT ON THE PLANE, PLEAS FOR HELP
Again through her Twitter account, Qunun later announced that Kuwait Airways 412 flight from Bangkok to Kuwait departed without her.
Woman rights activist Mona Eltahawy shared Rafah’s video after the plane has gone asking for help to be able to get an asylum statue from a European country.
Here is Rahaf in her hotel room: “I am Rahaf @rahaf84427714 the plane has departed I am in the hotel I need a country to protect me as soon as possible I am seeking asylum.” #SaveRahaf #RahafAlQanun pic.twitter.com/6Ir0pZ58BU
— Mona Eltahawy (@monaeltahawy) January 7, 2019
Georg Schmidt, Ambassador of Germany to Thailand shared his concerns over the incident on Twitter and send a support message.
Wir teilen die große Sorge um Rahaf Mohammed und stehen dazu in Verbindung mit der thailaendischen Seite und den Botschaften der Laender, an die sie sich gewandt hatte. #RahafMohamed
— GermanAmbTHA (@GermanAmbTHA) January 7, 2019
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Saudi woman has left the airport hotel and is under government protection.