FATAH: How Twitter saved life of Saudi rebel who rejected Islam

09 January, 2019, 11:08 | Author: Lucy Floyd
  • Saudi Woman Running Away from Family is Now Under UNHCR Protection

The United Nations refugee agency has assessed the case of a Saudi teenager trying to get to Australia and found she is a genuine refugee.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun on her mobile phone as she sat barricaded in a hotel room in Thailand's global airport in Bangkok on Monday.

In an earlier and separate explanation released on Twitter, the embassy also denied sending officials to Suvarnabhumi airport to meet Qunun as she arrived or impounding her passport - as she alleged. Her friends said on Tuesday that Australia had cancelled the tourist visa she was travelling on.

It comes after the teenager's father and brother arrived in Bangkok with the intention of seeing her - but Thai police say she is refusing to meet them.

She was "in transit" for an onward flight to Australia but claims that Saudi officials were "waiting for her at arrival gate".

The Thai government allowed her to enter the country temporarily under the protection of the UNHCR while her case was being assessed.

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After publicizing her case via social media, saying she feared for her safety if made to return home to her family, she was placed in the care of UNHCR workers as her bid for refugee status was considered, leading to her referral to Australia on Wednesday afternoon.

"We would have hoped that you'd have confiscated her cell phone - it would have been preferable to taking her passport", Sheaibi said, eliciting timid laughter from the translator.

Without her family's knowledge, the young Saudi rebel obtained an Australian visa and an airline ticket to Sydney, Australia, where she meant to ask for asylum.

Fortunately, the pressure of ordinary citizens using social media saved the life of Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun who is today free and may soon be in Canada as our beloved fellow citizen, sister and daughter. "They kept telling me they will kill me if I do something wrong-they say that since I was a child". -Gen. Surachate Hakparn, said to reporters Tuesday that Saudi diplomats told him they are satisfied with how her case had been handled.

After Alqunun barricaded herself in her Bangkok hotel room, her pleas for help over Twitter garnered tens of thousands of followers, and the attention of the UNHCR.

"We are very grateful that the Thai authorities did not send back (Qunun) against her will and are extending protection to her", he said. "This should be the standard for any individual who claims that his or her life is in danger".

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"The government will be making no further comment on this matter", it said. People who convert to another religion from Islam risk being charged with apostasy - or abandoning their religious beliefs, which is legally punishable by death.

By about 7.30pm on Monday, Mr Surachate told reporters Ms Qunun would be allowed to enter Thailand and apply for asylum in a third country. Saudi activists say the kingdom, through its embassies overseas, has at times put pressure on border patrol agents in foreign countries to deport the women back to Saudi Arabia.

By early Sunday afternoon, Mr Robertson had notified the United Nations refugee agency in Thailand and several foreign embassies about the unfolding case, and they began to contact Thai authorities.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the activist said there had been instances where Saudi women runaways were stopped by authorities in Hong Kong or the Philippines en route to Australia or New Zealand. "The embassy considers this issue a family matter".

He then "heard her screaming and begging for help from her room, after which he saw them carry her out with duct tape on her mouth, feet and hands".

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