Thailand grants reprieve for Rahaf Alqunun as family headed for Bangkok

Rahaf al-Qunun: Dad of Saudi refugee arrives in Bangkok Thailand | Daily Star

Rahaf al-Qunun: Dad of Saudi refugee arrives in Bangkok Thailand | Daily Star

As public pressure heightened, an Australian minister appeared to go beyond Canberra's initial bureaucratic promise to consider her case if and when United Nations experts judge her fear of mistreatment justified.

However, officials in Australia hinted that her request will be accepted.

Earlier, Ms Alqunun told AAP her visa to travel to Australia has been cancelled and she understood authorities were trying to get a new one for her. However, in repeated statements, including one issued Tuesday, the Saudi Embassy in Bangkok said it was only monitoring her situation.

Hakeem al-Araiby, a Bahraini refugee and torture survivor who was living in Australia, has been detained by Thailand for weeks as he awaits an extradition hearing.

Thai officials confiscated the 18-year-old's passport when she flew into Bangkok.

The Department of Home Affairs confirmed in a statement on Wednesday that the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees had referred Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun to Australia for consideration for refugee settlement. "My life is in real danger if I am forced to return to Saudi Arabia".

Her father and brother arrived in Bangkok on Tuesday, but Qunun "refused to see" them, according to Thai immigration police chief Surachate Hakparn, who has been caught up in the worldwide firestorm since Qunun's arrival.

The Australian Department of Home Affairs said they would "carefully consider" any application by the 18-year-old once a decision is made, which is expected to happen in the next five days. Go on social media now and watch accounts of so many young Saudis saying, 'Rahaf, you've shown us that we can do this!

Ms Alqunun garnered global attention when she took her plight to social media this week, tweeting that she had "nothing to lose".

The case has highlighted the cause of women's rights in Saudi Arabia.

Thai immigration chief Surachet Hakparn, speaking to journalists outside the Saudi Embassy after meeting with Saudi officials in Bangkok on Tuesday, said officials are concerned about Qunun's safety and well-being. The Saudi kingdom, which imposes the world's strictest restrictions on women, has a "guardianship system" which gives men authority in making certain decisions on behalf of their female family members.

Photos released on Monday night by immigration police showed the teenager with Thai and United Nations officials after she left the airport transit hotel room where she had been holed up over the weekend.

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

A Saudi activist familiar with other cases of women who have run away said they were often young and unprepared for the risks involved in seeking asylum.

"What is truly appalling is how the Saudi Arabian government has acted in sending an official to physically seize her passport from her in Bangkok airport worldwide transit", Mr Robertson said.

When someone makes very serious allegations of abuse, torture or a threat to their life, authorities have to take it at face value and allow the proper protocols of investigation to occur, Ms Stirling said.

Women trying to escape abuse by their families have been caught trying to seek asylum overseas in recent years and returned home.

Ms Al-Qunun said her male guardian had reported her for travelling "without his permission". In the meantime, her al-Qunun has asked that the media and public continue to pressure officials to follow-through on securing her asylum.

Alqunun "is going to start a revolution in Saudi Arabia".

Global pressure has mounted on Thai authorities to keep Alqunun safe and to ensure she isn't forcibly returned to the Saudi kingdom, which has been subject to worldwide condemnation over the killing of Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey.

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