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7 Jan, 2019 06:18

Saudi woman barricades herself in Thai hotel fearing relatives will kill her at home

Saudi woman barricades herself in Thai hotel fearing relatives will kill her at home

A young Saudi woman has barricaded herself into a hotel in Thailand, saying that she has fled from abusive relatives and will be killed if sent back home. Her claims have caught the attention of human rights campaigners.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, a Saudi national, says she intended to seek asylum in Australia but a representative from the Saudi Embassy seized her passport in Bangkok airport on Sunday.

She has barricaded herself in a hotel room in the airport’s transit zone out of fear that she will be deported to her home country. Thai immigration officials initially indicated that the woman would be sent back on Monday, but later clarified that she wouldn’t be deported immediately, citing safety reasons.

“If deporting her would result in her death, we definitely wouldn’t want to do that,” immigration chief Surachet Hakparn noted.

Al-Qunun’s lawyers, meanwhile, said that an injunction calling for deportation procedures to be blocked was rejected in court. The legal team is planning to appeal the decision.

In a video shared on social media, al-Qunun said that she will not leave the room until she has a meeting with UN officials.

The photos taken in her room show that she has barricaded the door with a table and mattresses.

The woman told human rights campaigners she had escaped from physical and psychological abuse that she suffers at the hands of her relatives. She managed to flee during her family’s visit to Kuwait, which, unlike Saudi Arabia, doesn’t require a male relative’s approval for a woman to leave the country. Al-Qunun now fears that she will be jailed upon returning home or even killed.

“My family is strict and locked me in a room for six months just for cutting my hair,” al-Qunun told AFP.

“I'm sure 100 percent they will kill me as soon as I get out of the Saudi jail.”

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Human Rights Watch appealed to Bangkok to halt the woman’s planned deportation. The organization’s Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson blasted the Thai authorities for their “heartless lack of concern” for al-Qunun’s wellbeing.

The woman’s pleas also caught the attention of Georg Schmidt, the German ambassador to the nation. He wrote that he would stay “in touch” with local officials concerning al-Qunun’s fate.

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