A safe location in Bangkok

It looks as if Thailand is not going to hand Rahaf Alqunun over to her father after all.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, 18, will be taken to a safe location in Bangkok, a hotel where U.N. staff members will interview her and process her status determination in coming days. She originally was set to be deported back to Kuwait, where her family was waiting for her.

Thai authorities had detained her at an airport hotel in Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport since Saturday night and had initially planned to send her back to Kuwait on a flight departing at 11:15 a.m. local time Monday. Alqunun, however, barricaded herself in her room and demanded to meet with the U.N. refu­gee agency, missing the flight.

Hours later, agency officials were granted access to her “to assess her need for international refugee protection and find an immediate solution for her situation,” according to an emailed statement from Caroline Gluck, a spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).  Immigration officials released photos of her leaving the small hotel room in the airport’s transit area where she was being held, escorted by U.N. officials and Thai authorities.

The Thai authorities have given her back her passport.

Alqunun began a social media campaign late Saturday on Twitter chronicling her detention and even posting a photocopy of her passport to prove her identity. The young woman, who is from the city of Hail, in northwestern Saudi Arabia, suffered physical and psychological abuse at the hands of family members, including her brother, according to a 19-year old woman who said she and Alqunun have been friends for several years.

The woman said Alqunun’s family locked her up for months at one point as punishment for cutting her hair.

The woman, who lives in Sweden and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said she also fled Saudi Arabia two years ago because her family was abusing her. Alqunun was in contact as she planned her escape, the woman said.

Sometimes Twitter is a literal life-saver.

The dramatic scenes and Alqunun’s pleas for help echoed those of other women who have tried to flee abusive or restrictive conditions in Saudi Arabia. In 2017, Dina Lasloom, a 24-year-old Saudi woman, was similarly attempting to seek asylum in Australia when she was stopped at an airport in Manila. She was forced to return to Saudi Arabia and has not been publicly heard from since.

Better luck to Rahaf.

H/t What a Maroon

Updating to add: on Dina Lasloom

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