Saudi Arabian woman held in Bangkok fears she will be killed if repatriated.
Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun says she was fleeing abusive family when stopped in airport
Agence France-Presse. Sun 6 Jan 2019 14.22 EST
A Saudi woman being held at a Bangkok airport fears she will be killed if she is repatriated by Thai immigration officials, who have confirmed the 18-year-old has been denied entry to the country. Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun said she was stopped by Saudi and Kuwaiti officials when she arrived at Suvarnabhumi airport and her travel document was forcibly taken from her, a claim backed by Human Rights Watch.
“They took my passport,” she said, adding that her male guardian had reported her for travelling “without his permission”. Qunun said she was in transit to seek asylum in Australia, where she claimed to have a visa.
Qunun said she was trying to flee her family, who subjected her to physical and psychological abuse. “My family is strict and locked me in a room for six months just for cutting my hair,” she said, adding that she was certain she would be imprisoned if sent back.
“I’m sure 100% they will kill me as soon as I get out of the Saudi jail,” she said, adding that she was “scared” and “losing hope”.
Qunun was stopped from entering Thailand when she flew in from Kuwait on Sunday, said Thailand’s immigration chief, Surachate Hakparn.
“She had no further documents such as return ticket or money,” he said, adding that Qunun was now in an airport hotel. “She ran away from her family to avoid marriage and she is concerned she may be in trouble returning to Saudi Arabia. We sent officials to take care of her now.”
He said Thai authorities had contacted the Saudi embassy “to coordinate”.
But Qunun disputed his account, saying she was was accosted by Saudi and Kuwaiti embassy representatives when she arrived at Suvarnabhumi.
Human Rights Watch’s Asia deputy director, Phil Robertson, criticised the actions of the Thai authorities. “What country allows diplomats to wander around the closed section of the airport and seize the passports of the passengers?” he said, adding there is “impunity” within the family unit in Saudi Arabia to abuse women.
Surachate said Qunun would be sent back to Saudi Arabia by Monday morning. “It’s a family problem,” he said of the case.
Another Saudi woman, Dina Ali Lasloom, was stopped in transit in the Philippines in April 2017 when she attempted to flee her family.
An airline security official told activists that Lasloom, who was 24 at the time, was heard “screaming and begging for help” as men carried her “with duct tape on her mouth, feet and hands” at the airport.
The Saudi embassy in Thailand and officials in Riyadh could not be reached for comment.