Saudi woman is refugee, Australia must resettle

09 January, 2019, 11:08 | Author: Donnie King
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The Saudi teenager fleeing her family has been thrown a lifeline by the Australian Government, which indicated it was likely to grant her a humanitarian visa.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told reporters on Wednesday - before the referral was confirmed - that Australia would consider any referrals from the United Nations but Ms al-Qunun would not receive any "special treatment". Her friends said on Tuesday that Australia had cancelled the tourist visa she was travelling on.

Alqunun's father - a senior Saudi official - and her brother, who she says often physically abused her, are now in Thailand.

In Saudi Arabia, she would not be able to travel overseas without the permission of a male guardian, so Qanun took the opportunity during a family visit to Kuwait and boarded a flight to Bangkok with the intention of reaching Australia.

Activists are concerned about what Saudi Arabia will do after Thai authorities reversed a decision to expel her and allowed Qunun to enter the country under the care of the UNHCR.

A statement from the Saudi Embassy describes al-Qunun's case as a "family affair", and that the kingdom did not demand her deportation to Saudi Arabia.

"When it became clear that she wasn't going to leave, I decided it was important to stay and have someone documenting what was going on", Ms McNeill said.

The official did not confirm or deny if the visa had been revoked, but said it would make no difference to her bid to reach Australia.

Ms Mohammed al-Qunun's twitter account later quoted a Saudi diplomat in Bangkok saying it would have been better to take her phone than her passport.

As for providing security in light of Khashoggi's murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, he said "that's the Thai government's job and I hope that's being looked into". She revealed to the BBC that the she is fearing her life because she is an apostate, an act that is considered a crime and is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.




Ms Qunun is now in the care of the UN's refugee agency in Bangkok, which is processing her case.

"We are very grateful that the Thai authorities did not send back (al-Qunun) against her will and are extending protection to her", he said.

The UN's refugee agency said on Tuesday it was investigating the case of the teenager.

"Yesterday, they [social media supporters] made the difference in Rahaf's life", she said.

Thailand is not a signatory to a United Nations convention on refugees, and asylum seekers are typically deported or wait years to be resettled in third countries. Once, she said, her family locked her up in a room for half a year because she cut her hair in a style they disliked.

In some cases, Saudi authorities were involved in forcing women to return to their families and in other cases, local authorities suspected the women of seeking asylum and deported them, the activist said. In a video clip of the meeting released by Thai immigration police, Alsheaiby is heard telling Thai officials: "From the moment she arrived, she opened a new account and her followers reached nearly 45,000 in a day".

"She's an adult woman who has escaped Saudi Arabia's repressive and discriminatory "guardianship" laws and these men must recognize the rules have changed", he said, adding it is "solely her decision" whether or not to meet them.

Another Saudi woman, Dina Ali Lasloom, was in April 2017 returned to Saudi Arabia from the Philippines - also against her will as she faced a forced marriage, according to a report by HRW.

Rahaf's posts immediately caused outcry on social media and attracted a flurry of responses.

After public pressure, Alqunun got her passport back.

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