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Thailand Pledges Not to Expel Saudi Woman Fleeing Family

Asia

07 January 2019, 17:07

M.News

The head of Thailand’s Immigration Police says a young Saudi woman who was stopped in Thailand as she tried to flee to Australia to seek asylum will not be forcibly sent back to Saudi Arabia, VOA reports.

Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn told reporters Monday that Rahaf Mohammed Aqunun will be allowed to meet with United Nations officials.

The 18-year-old fled from Kuwait during a family vacation and arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport Saturday night.

She has barricaded herself inside her airport hotel room and on Monday made several Twitter posts demanding she be allowed to meet with someone from the U.N. She said she will stay in the room until the U.N. helps her.

In an earlier video post, Aqunun can be seen pacing inside the hotel room and saying, “I just want to survive.”

“My family is strict and locked me in a room for six months just for cutting my hair. I am 100 percent certain they will kill me as soon as I get out of the Saudi jail.”

Thai authorities refused to let her into the country, saying she had no travel documents or money.

But Aqunun says Saudi and Kuwait officials took away her passport when she arrived — a claim backed up by Human Rights Watch.

“Thai authorities should immediately halt any deportation and either allow her to continue her travel to Australia or permit her to remain in Thailand to seek protection as a refugee,” Human Rights Watch deputy Middle East director Michael Page said.

He appealed to Saudi and Thai officials not to follow through with their initial plan to send Aqunun back to Kuwait on Monday.

“Saudi women fleeing their families can face severe violence from relatives, deprivation of liberty, and other serious harm if returned against their will,” he said.

Women have few civil rights in the ultra-conservative Saudi kingdom. They need permission from a male relative to obtain a passport and travel overseas.

Women who commit so-called crimes against morality can sometimes meet the death penalty.

Another Saudi woman, Dina Lasloom, flew to the Philippines in 2017 while trying to escape Saudi Arabia.

An airline security official reported seeing her dragged out of the airport with her mouth, hands, and feet bound with duct tape.

Human rights activists have seen no trace of her since.