With Phone And Hashtag, Saudi Asylum Seeker Outflanks Thai Authorities

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The Australian government said it was "pleased" the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) was assessing her claim.

Australia is "carefully considering" al-Qunun's case. She told Reuters she was fleeing her family's "physical, emotional and verbal abuse", adding she was restricted from travel and continuing her education.

"Nobody wants to see a young girl in distress and she has obviously now found a safe haven in Thailand and the United Nations will assess the veracity of the claims and what would happen next".

Al-Qunun's plight unfolded on social media, drawing support from around the world, which convinced Thai authorities to back down from sending her back to Saudi Arabia.

Al-Qunun's friend Nourah Alharbi, 20, credits the far-reaching social media campaign and attention from global media with saving al-Qunun's life.

Australia's home affairs minister has warned there will be "no special treatment" in the case of Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, the 18-year-old Saudi woman who barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room to prevent her forcible return to a family she claims will kill her.

"The Australian government is pleased that Ms Rahaf Mohammed Al-Qunun is having her claim for protection assessed by the UNHCR", a spokesperson for Australia's Department of Home Affairs told NPR on Tuesday.

So far, family members don't appear to have commented publicly on the allegations of abuse. "We have no idea what he is going to do. whether he will try to find out where she is and go harass her", Robertson said. "I'm not safe yet", her account tweeted.

"The government has said that promoting women's rights is a priority as part of its foreign policy; well here's a concrete case where they can protect a young woman's life, and the government should be seizing that opportunity and making its views widely known".

Thailand is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention and provides no legal protection to asylum seekers, although there are more than 100,000 refugees in the country.

On the same day, she refused to meet with her father and brother who traveled to Thailand.

Thai authorities reversed a decision to expel her and allowed Qunun to enter the country under the care of the UNHCR. So while on vacation in Kuwait, Alqunun slipped away from her family and tried to fly to Australia through Thailand.

Zainah Anwar, executive director of Musawah, a global project, which seeks to restore equality and justice for men and women in Muslim family law, said the guardianship system treats women as if they were "children" in Muslim Saudi Arabia.

Ms Alqunun will be subject to Australian security and character checks as the government examines her suitability for refugee settlement.

He told Australia's ABC that he was concerned about the arrival of Alqunun's father in Thailand.

When she refused and appealed to Thai immigration officials, she was escorted to a transit hotel.

Ms Al-Qunun said her male guardian had reported her for travelling "without his permission".

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. "I'm shouting out for help of humanity", she tweeted.

It comes at a time when Riyadh is facing unusually intense scrutiny from its Western allies over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October and over the humanitarian consequences of its war in Yemen.

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