'We Can Help': Calls For Australia To Help Saudi Woman Detained In Bangkok
Australia should issue emergency travel documents to 18-year-old Saudi woman seeking asylum.
That's the call from federal Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, as concern grows for the young woman who was detained by Saudi officials at a Bangkok airport, as she sought to reach Australia to seek asylum.
Rahaf Mohammed Mutlaq Alqunun said she flew from Kuwait on a ticket she had to Australia. She also reportedly had a visa to enter Australia.
But when she arrived in Bangkok, she claimed she was met by a Saudi diplomat who forcibly confiscated her passport. She said she is now confined inside a hotel room at the airport, under the guard of men she said were from the Saudi embassy and Kuwait airlines.
Senator Hanson-Young said on Monday that Australia should step in to assist the woman.
“Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun fears for her life and is facing deportation to Saudi Arabia, but we can help. We understand she has a visa and needs emergency travel documents to be brought safely here,” she said in a statement.
“I have called on the Liberal Government to act urgently to ensure Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun has safe travel to Australia. She has denounced Islam and is fleeing a forced marriage.
“Time is of the essence. Rahaf could be sent back to Saudi Arabia within hours without our intervention. The Liberal Government must act swiftly and bring her here to safety.”
Alqunun has used Twitter to publicise her situation. She has shared videos and photos of the room she is detained in, and of the men she believes are guarding her room.
She has also sent videos and statements to media outlets, who have shared on their own social channels. Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, shared one such video on Monday afternoon where Rahaf claimed men were outside her hotel room door, but she was refusing to leave until she can meet with the UN refugee agency.
"Because I got nothing to lose I’m going now to share my real name and my all information," Alqunun wrote on Twitter.
"This is a copy of my passport, I'm sharing [sic] it with you now because I want you to know I’m real and exist."
She also explained she is trying to flee both physical and psychological abuse in Saudi Arabia. By travelling alone and asserting her independence, she has violated the Saudi 'guardianship' system where by a woman is forbidden from travelling without a male -- be that a father, husband, uncle, brother or son.
For all these reasons, Alqunun is convinced if she were to return to Saudi Arabia, her life would be in danger.
The ABC reports it has received a video message from Alqunun that is to be broadcast if she disappears.
The Saudi embassy in Thailand released a statement via Twitter on Monday, outlining the government's version of events. It claimed the woman did not "have a return reservation or a tourist program, which requires deportation by the Thai officials."
"She will be deported back to the State of Kuwait where her family live."
"Her passport was not impounded by the Saudi Embassy."
Many Twitter users have come to her aid, posting phone numbers and addresses to the United Nations High Commissioner Of Human Rights in Bangkok. Others are calling on UNHCR to step in an help the young woman. Some are suggesting she seek asylum in Thailand, instead of Australia.
It is possible Alqunun will be forced onto a flight back to Kuwait on Monday, but that is yet to be confirmed by authorities.
10 daily has contacted United Nations High Commissioner Of Human Rights in Bangkok for comment.
Featured Image: Twitter/ Rahaf Mohammed Mutlaq Alqunun
Contact Siobhan at firstname.lastname@example.org