Saudi teen who fled family has left Thailand for Canada

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, a Saudi woman who claims to be fleeing her country and family, is seen in Bangkok, Thailand, Jan. 7, 2019 in this still image taken from a video obtained from social media.

She then barricaded herself inside a hotel room, posting live updates on social media in which she said she feared for her life should she be forcibly returned to her family.

UNHCR says the teen is en route to Canada, and it is grateful for the government's decision to provide worldwide protection and a "long-term solution for her there as a resettled refugee".

'I understand that there have been death threats against her but I don't know the details, ' said Phil Robertson from Human Rights Watch.

Al-Qunun's case has highlighted the cause of women's rights in Saudi Arabia.

Several women had been forced to return home in recent years, they say, adding that many similar cases had gone unreported.

Before that, Canada and Saudi Arabia were engaged in a diplomatic spat over a federal government tweet criticizing a Saudi civil rights crackdown, prompting the kingdom to expel Canada's ambassador and ordering their citizens studying in Canada to leave.

Canadian officials were not immediately available for comment.

Al-Qunun deleted her original Twitter account on Friday because she was receiving "very nasty, very real death threats". "She needs to be protected from those who want to murder her, and should promptly be given asylum in Australia", the commentary said. She was admitted to Thailand on Monday while the United Nations processed her request.

However, the office of Canada's foreign minister said it could not confirm the 18-year-old had been granted asylum.

The ordeal of Saudi Arabian refugee Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun continues for now, with Australia's foreign minister telling reporters in Bangkok Thursday no asylum deal had been reached yet.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun's appeal for refugee status has underscored the severe restrictions that women in Saudi Arabia face.

She meant to fly on to Australia, but barricaded herself in a hotel room in Bangkok's main airport on Sunday after Thai immigration officials attempted to deport her back to the Middle East.

"She chose Canada. It's her personal decision", he said.

Thailand is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention but sometimes allows the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) to take responsibility for "persons of concern", aimed at resettling them in third countries, says Human Rights First.

Activists have called on Thai authorities to "show humanity" to Alaraibi in the same way that they had to Qunun. "When the United Nations made a request that we grant asylum we accepted".

Sophie McNeill, a reporter with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation who has had exclusive access to al-Qunun, said Friday that al-Qunun shut down her Twitter account, but is "safe and fine".

Al-Araibi's case is being considered by Thailand's justice system, said Payne.

He was arrested while vacationing in Thailand in November due to an Interpol notice in which Bahrain sought his custody after he was sentenced in absentia in 2014 to 10 years in prison for allegedly vandalizing a police station - a charge he denies.

  • Rogelio Becker