WATCH: Saudi teen seeking asylum in Australia describes harrowing tale

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun has said that she feared her family would kill her if she were sent back to Saudi Arabia and that she had renounced Islam, a crime punishable by death under Saudi law.

By REUTERS, ALON EINHORN
January 9, 2019 17:38
1 minute read.

Saudi woman fleeing abusive family seeks asylum in Thailand, January 9, 2019 (Reuters)

Saudi woman fleeing abusive family seeks asylum in Thailand, January 9, 2019 (Reuters)

 
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Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun the 18-year-old Saudi woman who fled her country to Thailand, may be granted asylum status in Australia.

"The UNHCR has referred Ms Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun to Australia for consideration for refugee resettlement," Australia's Department of Homeland Security said in an email on Wednesday.

Qunun arrived in Bangkok on Saturday appealing for asylum. Australia had earlier said it would consider resettling her if the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) deemed her a refugee, which the international organization did on Wednesday.

Qunun said that she feared her family would kill her if she were sent back to Saudi Arabia and that she had renounced Islam, which is a crime punishable by death under Saudi law.

She has refused to meet her father and brother who flew to Bangkok this week, Thai immigration chief Surachate Hakparn said.

"He wanted to make sure that his daughter was safe... he told me that he wanted to take her home," he said, adding that her father denied Qunun's allegation that her family was abusing her physically and emotionally.


Qunun was initially denied entry to Thailand when she arrived on Saturday. She soon started posting messages on Twitter from the transit area of Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport saying she had "escaped Kuwait" and her life would be in danger if forced to return to Saudi Arabia.

Within hours, a campaign sprang up on Twitter, spread by a loose network of activists around the world, prompting the Thai government to reverse a decision to force the young woman onto a plane that would return her to her family.

Qunun shared on Twitter a cartoon made especially for her showing a kangaroo, symbolizing Australia, protecting her from Saudis trying to harm her.


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