Australia will formally consider asylum claim of Saudi woman in Bangkok


Australia has said it will formally consider the asylum claim of a Saudi woman fleeing her family after the United Nations assessed her case and ruled that she was a genuine refugee.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, took to Twitter on Monday to plead for her life after she was stopped by Saudi officials and Thai immigration officers during a transit through Bangkok airport while on route to Australia, where she wanted to start an asylum process.

Her passport was confiscated and she barricaded herself in an airport hotel room to avoid being deported on a flight to Kuwait. The teenager then gripped the world with her desperate cries for help via social media.

She claimed she was escaping from her family who had subjected her to physical and psychological abuse and that she feared she would be killed if she was sent home to Saudi Arabia. Her family have not commented on the allegations, although her father travelled to Bangkok to try to speak to her.

Ms al-Qunun's panicked efforts to escape repatriation generated a global media frenzy and prompted a U-turn by the Thai authorities who allowed her to be taken into the protection of the United Nations office for Refugees (UNHCR).

The UNHCR initially said it could take days to process her case, but had decided by Wednesday morning that she was a genuine refugee and referred her to Australia for resettlement.

The decision was made public by Australia's Department of Home Affairs, which said it would consider the referral from the UN in the usual way.

In a Twitter update on Wednesday, Ms al-Qunun thanked her 107,000 followers for their "support in my difficult psychological situation" and said that she had "regained my strength" after a dramatic few days.

Her extraordinary use of social media to highlight her plight had managed to spark an international outcry and #SaveRahaf campaign within hours of her detention, attracting human rights activists and diplomats to advocate on her behalf.

"Everybody was watching. When social media works, this is what happens," Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, told Reuters.

The Saudi embassy in Bangkok has not publicly commented on Ms al-Qunun's case since it initially claimed on Monday that she had tried to enter Thailand without the right papers, a charge which she denied.

On Tuesday, the Thai immigration office released a video clip of its officials meeting Saudi diplomats to discuss the case.

"When she first arrived in Thailand, she opened a new site (account) and the followers reached about 45,000 within one day," a Saudi official speaking in Arabic through a translator tells Thai officials in the video.

"I wish you had taken her phone, it would have been better than (taking) her passport," the official said.


More Related News

The Latest: Pompeo stresses diplomacy in Gulf crisis
The Latest: Pompeo stresses diplomacy in Gulf crisis

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is stressing diplomacy in responding to suspected attacks on oil tankers near a Middle East shipping route and says American officials are reaching out to their foreign counterparts. Pompeo tells "Fox News Sunday" that intelligence officials have "lots of data, lots of evidence" tying Iran to alleged attacks on two oil tankers traveling near the Strait of Hormuz, a transit route for Arab oil shipments to Asia. Asked whether the United States might send troops in response, Pompeo notes that it's China and China's neighbors - not the U.S. - that could see a significant threat to their energy supplies from any attacks there.

Damaged tanker arrives at UAE anchorage amid increased regional tensions
Damaged tanker arrives at UAE anchorage amid increased regional tensions

A damaged Japanese tanker arrived Sunday at a UAE anchorage site after it was rocked by explosions in Gulf waters as Saudi Arabia accused arch-rival Iran of being behind the attack. The Kokuka Courageous was carrying highly flammable methanol through the Gulf of Oman on Thursday when it came under attack along with the Norwegian-operated Front Altair -- the second assault in a month in the strategic shipping lane. US President Donald Trump has said the twin attacks had Iran "written all over it" -- rejecting Tehran's vehement denial -- and its key Gulf ally Saudi Arabia has also lashed out against Tehran.

Saudi crown prince says kingdom isn
Saudi crown prince says kingdom isn't seeking war in region

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in remarks published Sunday that the kingdom is not seeking war in the region, but warned it will not hesitate to confront threats to its security. The U.S. alleges Iran used limpet mines to target the tankers, pointing to black-and-white footage it captured that American officials describe as Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops removing an unexploded mine from the Kokuka Courageous. Iran has rejected the U.S. claim that it was responsible for Thursday's attacks, saying it stands ready to play an active and constructive role in ensuring the security of strategic maritime passages.

Saudi crown prince warns against
Saudi crown prince warns against 'exploiting' Khashoggi murder

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has warned against "exploiting" the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi for political gains, in what appeared to be a veiled attack on Turkey. Turkey's ties with Saudi Arabia have come under strain since the brutal murder last October of Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, which tarnished the international reputation of the crown prince. Turkish officials were the first to report the murder and have continued to press Saudi Arabia for information on the whereabouts of his dismembered body, which has yet to be found.

Saudi crown prince lashes out at arch-rival Iran over tanker attacks
Saudi crown prince lashes out at arch-rival Iran over tanker attacks

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accused arch-rival Iran of attacks on oil tankers in a vital Gulf shipping channel, adding he "won't hesitate" to tackle any threats to the kingdom, according to an interview published on Sunday. Two tankers were struck by explosions on Thursday in the Gulf of Oman, the second attack in a month in the strategic shipping lane amid a tense US-Iran standoff, sparking fears of a regional conflagration and sending oil prices soaring. The prince also accused "Iran and its proxies" over May 12 attacks on four tankers anchored in the Gulf of Oman off the United Arab Emirates port of Fujairah.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


Top News: Latin America

Hit "Like"
Don't miss any important news
Thanks, you don't need to show me this anymore.