UNHCR examining Saudi woman Rahaf's asylum bid

UNHCR examining Saudi woman Rahaf's asylum bid

UNHCR examining Saudi woman Rahaf's asylum bid

An 18-year-old Saudi woman seeking asylum has left Bangkok airport "under the care" of the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), a Thai official said on Monday, following her desperate plea against deportation.

In this image made from video released by Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun/Human Rights Watch, Rahaf Mohammed Alqunan views her mobile phone as she sits barricaded in a hotel room at an worldwide airport in Bangkok, Thailand. The friend also explained that the young woman "received a threat from her cousin-he said he wants to see her blood, he wants to kill her".

On Sunday, Thai authorities said Qunun would be sent back to Saudi Arabia, but they abruptly changed course as her plight pinballed across social media.

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. "I am 100 percent certain they will kill me as soon as I get out of the Saudi jail", she said.

Her pleas for asylum have also brought worldwide attention to the obstacles women face in Saudi Arabia under male guardianship laws, which require that women, regardless of their age, have the consent of a male relative - usually a father or husband - to travel, obtain a passport or marry.

But she was stopped en route by authorities in Thailand at the request of the Saudi government, which demanded the woman return to her family.

Surachate also said if Thai authorities decide not to send her back to Saudi Arabia, they would have to provide their reasons to Saudi authorities in order not to not affect the countries' relations.

"For now, I just called for the immigration and Rahaf herself, and the staff at the hotel" to be questioned, she added.

The official did not confirm or deny if the visa had been revoked, but said it would make no difference to her bid to reach Australia.

Germany's ambassador to Thailand Georg Schmidt expressed "great concern" for Alqunun and would remain in contact with Thai authorities and ambassadors of countries to which she had turned.

The ultra-conservative Saudi kingdom has always been criticised for imposing some of the world's toughest restrictions on women.

Human Rights Watch said she's at risk of facing criminal charges in Saudi Arabia for 'parental disobedience, ' which can result in imprisonment, as well as for 'harming the reputation of the kingdom'. "I know them. They kept telling me they will kill me if I do something wrong - they say that since I was a child". She said she planned to spend a few days in Thailand so she would not spark suspicion when she left Kuwait. After the meeting, Thailand's immigration chief said she would not be expelled.

"We will not send someone back to die", said the Thai immigration chief, Major General Surachate Hakparn, according to the New York Times.

Ms Mohammed al-Qunun said she had renounced Islam, and feared her family would kill her if she was sent back to Saudi Arabia.

She came from Kuwait on her way to Australia with the intention of applying for asylum and escaping what she described as violence by her family.

An airline security official told activists that Lasloom was heard "screaming and begging for help" as men carried her "with duct tape on her mouth, feet and hands" at the airport.

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