Saudi woman seeking asylum in Australia detained in Bangkok airport
An 18-year-old Saudi woman on her way to seek asylum in Australia is being held in an airport hotel in Bangkok, and says her family will kill her if she is forced back to Saudi Arabia.
- Ms Alqunun said she expected to be forced on a plane to Kuwait and then Saudi Arabia tomorrow
- She said she was physically and psychologically abused by her family
- The ABC has contacted Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment
Rahaf Mohammed Mutlaq Alqunun flew from Kuwait and said she had a ticket onwards to Australia, but said when she arrived in Bangkok a Saudi diplomat met her at the Bangkok airport and forcibly confiscated her passport.
Ms Alqunun is currently confined in a hotel inside the airport, watched by men she said were from the Saudi embassy and Kuwait Airlines.
“Because I’ve got nothing to lose I’m going now to share my real name and my all information,” she tweeted.
“My name is Rahaf Mohammed Mutlaq Alqunun, and this is my picture.
“I’m afraid, my family WILL kill me.”
The ABC has received a video message from the teenager, to be broadcast in the event she disappears.
“She was at the Bangkok airport on the way to Australia — she had a visa to go to Australia — and her passport was seized by a Saudi embassy official in the airport,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director Asia for Human Rights Watch.
“She’s now being held at the Bangkok airport hotel and threatened to be sent back to Saudi Arabia tomorrow.
“I think she was trying to assert her independence and her family didn’t like that, she says she was physically and psychologically abused before she escaped.”
Saudi Arabia remains one of the world’s most repressive countries for women.
Under the “guardianship” system, women are forbidden from travelling without a male escort — a father, uncle, husband, brother or son.
The ABC has contacted Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Police Chief for comment, but there has been no response.
The case comes three months after Saudi journalist Jamal Koshoggi was murdered inside the Saudi Arabian embassy in Turkey, and two months since Thai officials detained Australian refugee Hakeem AlAraibi in Bangkok.