An 18-year-old Saudi woman is being held in Bangkok awaiting deportation after trying to escape her abusive family, but she says she will be killed by her family if she is deported.
Rahaf Mohammed al Qunun, 18, has been held in Suvarnabhumi airport since arriving at 4am GMT on Sunday. Her plan was to get to Australia and apply for asylum but a Saudi official in the Thai airport seized her passport after her father reported her for travelling without her male ‘guardian’. He claimed she was mentally ill but failed to provide any evidence.
Plans were being made to escort Rahaf on to Kuwait Airways flight 412 from Bangkok to Kuwait. But speaking from detention in an airport hotel, Rahaf said she is scared and will be killed if she is sent home.
She told MailOnline:
I am scared.
My brother told me that he’s waiting with some Saudi men.
They will take me to Saudi Arabia and my father will kill me, because he is so angry.
He will kill me. My family do this. I know them.
They kept telling me they will kill me if I do something wrong – they say that since I was a child.
According to MailOnline Rahaf, her parents, and her six siblings live in Ha’il in Saudi Arabia, where her father works as a government official. She has suffered beatings and emotional abuse from her family and was at one point locked in her room for six months for cutting her hair.
When the family took a trip to visit a family in Kuwait she made her escape, buying flight tickets from Kuwait to Thailand and from Thailand to Australia with help from a friend, and taking a taxi to the airport at 4am after checking her father was asleep.
When I came to Thailand someone told me that he will help me to get a visa for Thailand in the airport. After that he took my passport. After one hour he came back with five or six people, I think they were police or something and then they told me my father is so angry and I must go back to Saudi Arabia. They know I ran away from him.
Rahaf demanded her passport back and asked to be allowed to fly to another country, but Thai officials insisted she would be deported.
They kept telling me I can’t get a visa. The airline told me I have to stay here so I can go back to Kuwait. From Kuwait they [my family] will take me to Saudi Arabia.
They will kill me. I am so scared.
I want to go to another country, and stay safe. I have a visa for Australia, I want to go there.
I don’t know what I will do.
I have to fight, because I don’t want to lose my life.
Human Rights Watch has called on the Thai government to grant sanctuary to Rahaf, who they believe may be at ‘serious risk of harm’ if returned to her family.
Thai officials claim it is a family matter and say she will be deported to Saudi – where renouncing Islam is punishable by death, and activists say women are at risk of ‘honour killings’ by family members.