Father of Saudi woman seeking asylum arrives in Thailand, wants meeting

Remigio Civitarese
Gennaio 12, 2019

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

Lawmakers and activists in Australia and Britain have urged their governments to grant asylum to Qunun.

A young Saudi woman is asking for Canada's help after tweets about her efforts to flee abuse and seek asylum overseas put her in the global spotlight.

"The unique thing about this case is that she had access to social media, and was able to report on it and bring the world's attention to her plight", said Pearson. However, in repeated statements, including one issued Tuesday, the Saudi Embassy in Thailand has said it is only monitoring her situation.

Al-Qunun's friend Nourah Alharbi, 20, credits the far-reaching social media campaign and attention from worldwide media with saving al-Qunun's life.

Rights group Amnesty International said Thai authorities should "show humanity" to AlAraibi the same way they had to Qunun.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun is escorted to a vehicle by a Thai immigration officer and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees officials. She told the world defiantly: "I'm real and exist".

Surachate said Alqunun's father and brother were due to arrive soon in Bangkok, but that it was her decision whether to meet with them.

"Foreign governments, including Australia, that are concerned about human rights should be doubling down and offering support", Pearson said.

"We have no idea what he is going to do. whether he will try to find out where she is and go harass her".

"The claims made by Ms Alqunun that she may be harmed if returned to Saudi Arabia are deeply concerning", a Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman said in an earlier statement.

In a since-deleted tweet, Ms Alqunun's friends spoke about her concern for her 11-year-old sister's welfare.

Asylum seekers gain little sympathy from Thai authorities, who are accused of appeasing repressive countries in a diplomatic charm offensive that targets government relations at the expense of human rights.

Thai officials met with counterparts from the Kingdom on Tuesday and Maj Gen Surachate Hakparn, Thailand's immigration police chief, said that Saudi officials said they were satisfied with the handling of the case.

Saudi Arabia enforces male guardianship laws, which require that women, regardless of age, have the consent of a male relative - usually a father or husband - to travel, obtain a passport or marry. Alqunun's family was abusive, she said, even more so since she had renounced Islam.

Dina Ali Lasloom, a then-24-year-old Saudi woman, had arrived in Asia from Kuwait and also wanted to travel on to Australia when she recorded a video message pleading for help. But the Thai immigration chief, Surachate Hakpan, said the men would have to wait to learn whether the UN's refugee agency would allow the request.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the activist said there had been instances where Saudi women runaways were stopped by authorities in Hong Kong or the Philippines en route to Australia or New Zealand. She feared for her life if forced to return to Saudi Arabia.

Some Saudi female runaways fleeing abuse by their families have been caught trying to seek asylum overseas in recent years.

The comments sparked anger on social media.

Qunun's case comes at a time when Riyadh is facing unusually intense scrutiny from its Western allies over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October and over humanitarian consequences of its war in Yemen.

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