Alwaght - Global attention once again has drawn to Saudi Arabia’s strict social rules after an 18-year-old Saudi woman fled her family and barricaded herself inside a Bangkok airport hotel to prevent being expelled.
Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun has been at Bangkok’s international airport since Saturday when she arrived from Kuwait, saying she fears her family will kill her if she is forced to return home, Reuters reported.
It comes at a time when Riyadh regime is facing intense scrutiny from its Western allies over the humanitarian consequences of its bloody aggression on Yemen and over the killing of dissent journalist Jamal Khashoggi at its consulate in Istanbul in October and.
Thai immigration officials had planned to put Qunun on a flight back to Kuwait on Monday, but relented after her online pleas drew international attention.
She told Reuters via text and audio messages she had fled Kuwait during a family visit there, and had planned to travel to Australia to seek asylum. She said she was held after leaving her plane in Bangkok and told she would be sent back to Kuwait.
“They will kill me,” Qunun told Reuters. “My life is in danger. My family threatens to kill me for the most trivial things.”
A representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) met Qunun at the airport and also discussed the case with Thai immigration officials. After the meeting, Thailand’s immigration chief said she would not be expelled.
“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.
He said the UNHCR would work on processing Qunun’s request for refugee status. Giuseppe de Vincentis, the UNHCR representative in Thailand, said the Thai government had given assurances Qunun would not be expelled to any country where she might be in danger while her case was being processed.
Qunun posted a video on Twitter on Monday of her barricading her hotel door with a table and a mattress. She said her family was powerful in Saudi society but she did not identify them.
Asked why she was seeking refuge in Australia, she told Reuters: “Physical, emotional and verbal abuse and being imprisoned inside the house for months. They threaten to kill me and prevent me from continuing my education.
“They won’t let me drive or travel. I am oppressed. I love life and work and I am very ambitious but my family is preventing me from living.”
New York-based Human Rights Watch said Thailand should not send Qunun back to her family because she says she faces danger.