Thai police: Canada, Australia willing to accept Saudi woman

12 January, 2019, 11:11 | Author: Donnie King
  • BBC asks if Muslim teenager who fled Saudi ‘should be killed for leaving Islam’

The ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia has come under fire since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the country's consulate in Istanbul past year.

The 18-year-old barricaded herself in a room at an airport hotel in Bangkok on Sunday, saying she had renounced Islam and her life was in danger from her family in Kuwait.

"She will fly at 11:15pm tonight (1615 GMT)", said Thai immigration chief Surachate Hakparn.

Payne's visit will also put a spotlight on another refugee case, involving a Bahrain footballer Hakeem AlAraibi, who has refugee status in Australia but was arrested at Bangkok airport past year after arriving for his honeymoon.

Alqunun's case has again highlighted the precarious cause of women's rights in Saudi Arabia.

If she goes there, her case could add another interesting element to what has been an escalating back-and-forth between Canada and the Saudi government, a spat that has severely strained relations between the two countries. Many Saudi women fleeing abuse by their families have been caught trying to seek asylum overseas in recent years and returned home.

On Friday afternoon she posted a final cryptic tweet on her profile saying "I have some good news and some bad news" - shortly after her account was deactivated in response to death threats she had faced, her friends said.

"My family is strict and locked me in a room for six months just for cutting my hair". The Twitter hashtag.SaveRahaf ensued, and a photo of her behind a door barricaded with a mattress was seen around the world. Among those arrested was Samar Badawi, whose family members fled to Canada in 2015 and have since become Canadian citizens.

On Wednesday, Global Affairs Canada spokesperson Stefano Maron told CNN that Canada is very concerned by, and is closely watching, Qunun's case.

The office of Canada's foreign minister however, said it could not confirm that asylum had been granted.

Mr Trudeau said Canada would always help to defend human rights and the rights of women. Our diplomats in Thailand have been engaged with our partners and allies - particularly with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

"When she arrived, she open a new (Twitter) account and her followers grew to 45,000 in one day", he said in Arabic.

A spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs later confirmed they were considering the 18-year-old for refugee resettlement.

Qunun is expected to arrive in Toronto on Saturday morning, Reuters reported.

"There was the uncertain aspect of her father and her brother - the people she feared most - still being here, still being in Bangkok and still being present. That something might happen", said Robertson.

But late Friday Thailand's immigration police chief said she was bound for Canada.

"The Canadian government seemed to appreciate the urgency of this case, while Australian officials did not - for whatever reason, Australia was moving too slowly in processing UNHCR's request", Pearson said.

She said there were more than a dozen Saudi women in jail, imprisoned for challenging the guardianship laws.

Pottie was not available for comment.

Experts agree the media focus on al-Qunun's case has put pressure on officials in Thailand - which usually have little sympathy for asylum seekers - to act quickly.



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