‘Under UN’s care’: Saudi woman ‘rescued’ from deportation after social media storm

‘Under UN’s care’: Saudi woman ‘rescued’ from deportation after social media storm

In 2017, another Saudi Arabian woman, Dina Ali Lasloom, who also tried to claim asylum in Australia via Kuwait, was apprehended in the Manila airport and sent back after begging for help through a stranger's twitter account because she believed her family would kill her.

Fortunately, the pressure of ordinary citizens using social media saved the life of Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun who is today free and may soon be in Canada as our beloved fellow citizen, sister and daughter. She began by boarding a plane by herself to Thailand, but the plan quickly spiraled out of control.

She had spent almost 48 hours stranded at Bangkok airport under threat of being expelled. This forced the Thai officials to come to the decision to deport her back to her country for "violating the law".

At about 1am on Monday morning, Ms Qunun posted a video of herself pushing a table to barricade her hotel room door.

But she had only 24 followers and her first tweets went without being noticed until the BBC picked up the story.

On Monday she was allowed to leave the airport in the care of the UN's refugee agency. The UNHCR is now evaluating her asylum claim, which is expected to take up to a week.

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.

The Australian government said it was monitoring the case closely.

"Any application by Al-Qunun for a humanitarian visa will be carefully considered once the UNHCR process has concluded", the official said.

Bangkok Post reported that her father and an elder brother are due to arrive in Bangkok.

On Twitter, Rahaf has been posting updates in her situation regularly.

In a short press release distributed to media outside its embassy in Bangkok Tuesday, the Saudi government said it had not demanded her deportation.

Surachate said he would talk to the United Nations refugee agency about a potential meeting between the family members.

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At 3.30pm on Monday, Thailand's immigration chief Surachate Hakparn held a press conference at the airport for dozens of Thai and global media representatives gathered in the transit area.

"She's an adult woman who has escaped Saudi Arabia's repressive and discriminatory "guardianship" laws and these men must recognise the rules have changed", he said.

"Everybody was watching. When social media works, this is what happens", said Mr Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, of the worldwide outcry.

He told Australia's ABC that he was concerned about the arrival of Alqunun's father in Thailand.

The organization's Australian director, Elaine Pearson, said she had seen electronic confirmation of her tourist visa, but that Alqunun could no longer access her visa page on Australia's immigration website on Tuesday, sparking concern that the document had been cancelled.

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.

Rahaf also accused her family of subjecting her to physical and psychological abuse. She said she has made a decision to renounce Islam.

The chief of immigration police Surachate Hakparn said "the Saudi Arabia embassy contacted the immigration police... and said that the girl had run away from her parents and they feared for her safety". She was forced to return to Saudi Arabia and was not publicly heard from again, according to activists tracking her whereabouts.

In her pleas online, the young woman specifically asked for asylum in the United States, the UK, Canada and Australia.

Baloch noted the power of social media in making her plight a matter that officials could not ignore.

"They will kill me", she said.

Apostasy is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.

"Please I need u all".

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