Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun: Saudi teen granted Thailand stay after fleeing family

A Saudi woman held at Suvarnabhumi airport in Thailand said she would be killed if she was repatriated by Thai immigration officials. — Reuters pic

Saudi woman is trapped at Bangkok airport after trying to flee family amid fears they would kill her

An 18-year-old Saudi woman who fled her family and barricaded herself inside a Bangkok airport hotel to prevent being expelled by Thai authorities has left the airport after talks with the United Nations refugee agency, an official said on Monday.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun has been at Bangkok airport since Saturday having fled from her family and she fears that if she is repatriated her family will kill her. Ms Qunun was denied entry by Thai immigration officials, who deny her accusations that she was detained at the request of Saudi Arabia.

Earlier in the day, Hakparn said Alqunun's father would arrive tonight, and that officials would see if the young woman was willing to depart with him.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunan barricaded herself in a hotel room at an global airport in Bangkok, Thailand to avoid deportation.

Australia today vowed to consider an 18-year-old Saudi woman's plea for asylum, further easing fears she could be forcibly returned home.

But when al-Qunun arrived in Thailand, she was stopped and her passport was taken from her.

But as her plight pinballed across social media - including tweets about how she had barricaded herself in a hotel room - they abruptly changed course and allowed her to leave the airport on January 7 in the care of the UN's refugee agency.

"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".

Ms Alqunun told a Thai human rights worker her family kept her in her room for six months because she cut her hair.

Under Saudi Arabia's strict male guardianship laws, women must have the consent of a male relative to travel, obtain a passport or marry.

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While confined inside the hotel, being watched by men she said were from the Saudi embassy and Kuwait Airlines, Ms Alqunun began tweeting that she had "nothing to lose".

"We are very grateful that the Thai authorities did not send back Ms. Alqunun against her will and are extending protection for her", said Giuseppe de Vicentiis, UNHCR's representative in Thailand said on Tuesday.

She also said she had asserted her independence, but had been forced to pray and wear a hijab and that she had been beaten by her brother.

"I'm afraid, my family WILL kill me".

Thailand initially said she was being deported because she did not meet the requirements for a Thai visa, however Ms Mohammed al-Qunun insisted she had a visa for Australia and that she never wanted to stay in Thailand. Saudi Arabia is denying that their people were at the airport, Robertson said.

@rahaf84427714 just sent from her hotel room at the #Bangkok airport. They will take me to Saudi Arabia and my father will kill me, because he is so angry. "He came back with what seemed to be airport security and said that my parents objected and said I must return to Saudi Arabia via Kuwait Airways", she told Reuters. He also clarified that, her father, who lives in Kuwait and Hail, was the one who had reported her escape and possible disembarkation in Thailand.

But he denied that her passport had been seized nor that embassy officials were present inside the airport.

In 2017, Dina Ali Lasloom triggered a firestorm online when she was stopped en route to Australia, where she planned to seek asylum.

"We will take her into Bangkok and provide her with safe shelter under the care of the UNHCR", immigration chief Surachate Hakparn told reporters on Monday evening.

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