An 18-year-old Saudi woman who fled her family over alleged abuse and barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room in a desperate bid for asylum will be allowed to stay in Thailand while her case is evaluated by the U.N. refugee agency, immigration authorities said Monday.
Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun grabbed attention when she sent out pleas for help via social media, saying that she was feared that she about her life if she was sent back to Kuwait, where she sneaked away from her family.
She has been allowed to enter Thailand temporarily under the protection of the U.N. refugee agency.She said she wants to go to Australia to seek asylum there.
Alqunun’s plight shows and reflects the condition of other women in Saudi , who in recent years have took the social media platform to magnify their problems and asking for help while trying to flee from abusive problem and other problems that they face in their country.
Alqunun’s ordeal began when she fled from her family while in Kuwait and boarded a flight to Thailand, seemingly taking an upper hand of being away from Saudi Arabia’s restrictions on women who cannot travel abroad without a man’s agreement.
She then went online, sending out pleas for assistance over Twitter, and also barricaded her hotel room door. Global attention was sparked by social media and she did not get on the scheduled morning flight to Kuwait.
Her Twitter account attracted more than 66,000 followers in less than 48 hours and her story. As the pressure grew, Thai officials agreed to allow U.N refugee officials to meet with her.
“As of now, she does not wish to go back and we will not force her. She won’t be sent anywhere tonight,” Thai Immigration Police chief Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn said at a news conference.