Saudi woman's asylum bid challenges kingdom's reach overseas

Teen Locks Herself in Room After Fleeing Allegedly Abusive Family

But Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun's father and brother would have to wait and see whether the United Nations refugee agency would allow them to see her, immigration chief Surachate Hakpan said.

In a video of the meeting, Saudi charge d'affaires Abdalelah Mohammed Alshuaibi could be heard telling Thai officials through a translator: "She opened a Twitter account and her followers grew to 45,000 within one day".

"We have no idea what he is going to do. whether he will try to find out where she is and go harass her".

Riyadh denied that it had ever planned on apprehending al-Qunun and bringing her back, calling the case a "family matter". Khashoggi, who wrote critically of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in columns for The Washington Post, had been living in self-imposed exile before he was killed and dismembered inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul by Saudi agents.

A young Saudi woman is asking for Canada's help after tweets about her efforts to flee abuse and seek asylum overseas put her in the global spotlight.

The Australian director of Human Rights Watch Australia, Elaine Pearson, said the extraordinary circumstances around Qunun's case should be taken into account.

On Twitter, Rahaf has been posting updates in her situation regularly. Alanazi, reached by Asia Times, said that it was the Thai border control that took the young woman's passport and that the airline was only cooperating with the process after her visa was rejected.

"You are the real power help me to send my message, I need PROTECTION", she tweeted Tuesday afternoon, adding the hashtag #savemylife.

Thai Immigration Chief Surachata Hakpan said the two will have to seek permission from the U.N.'s refugee agency before gaining access to Alqunun. She was reportedly taken to a detention center in the Saudi capital and little more regarding her location or condition is known. She earlier barricaded herself in a Thai hotel room, refusing to leave until the United Nations intervened.

The embassy, along with Thai officials, earlier said that al-Qunun was stopped by Thai authorities in Bangkok because she did not have a return ticket, a hotel reservation or itinerary to show she was a tourist, which appeared to have raised a flag about the reasons for her trip. "They said to her very clearly that they will put her on the Kuwait Airways flight KU 412 leaving (Monday) at 11.15 am".

Ms Qunun's desperate tweets ricocheted across social media with the #SaveRahaf hashtag drawing an outpouring of support but also the criticism of some hardliners in her native country.

On Monday, the head of Thai immigration, Lieutenant General Surachate Hakparn, told the press he would not force a deportation if the woman's life was found to be in danger. "Thailand is a land of smiles".

"Rahaf is not a political asylum case", he insisted.

"Everybody was watching. When social media works, this is what happens", said Mr Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, of the global outcry. Both had attempted to apply for Turkish residency, but are now facing deportation in an ongoing appeals process.

But she was stopped en route by authorities in Thailand at the request of the Saudi government, which demanded the woman return to her family.

Rahaf's posts immediately caused outcry on social media and attracted a flurry of responses.

In October, the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey further heightened tensions and put worldwide scrutiny on the country's human rights record.

In some cases, Saudi authorities were involved in forcing women to return to their families and in other cases, local authorities suspected the women of seeking asylum and deported them, the activist said.

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