Who is Rahaf al-Qunun, why is her life in danger?


Australia today vowed to consider an 18-year-old Saudi woman's plea for asylum, further easing fears she could be forcibly returned home.

The Department of Home Affairs confirmed in a statement that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees had referred 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun to Australia for consideration for refugee resettlement.

Rahaf al-Qunun has said she fears her family will kill her if she was forced to return home.

Thai immigration chief Surachet Hakparn, speaking to journalists outside the Saudi Embassy after meeting with Saudi officials in Bangkok on Tuesday, said officials are concerned about Qunun's safety and well-being.

To avoid this, al-Qunun barricaded herself into a hotel room in Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport, and started tweeting about her situation .

A representative from the Australian government said that they are monitoring the case "closely", noting that the claims made by Qunun, "that she may be harmed if returned to Saudi Arabia are deeply concerning." .

It noted that Hakeem al-Araibi, a refugee and "torture survivor" from Bahrain granted residence in Australia, has been detained by Thailand since November awaiting a hearing on a Bahraini extradition request.

He said Qunun's father and brother were due to arrive soon in Bangkok, but it was her decision whether to meet with them.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia would consider giving Ms Alqunun a humanitarian visa if the UNHCR process found her to be a refugee.

Alqunun's Twitter account has attracted tens of thousands of followers in less than 48 hours and her story grabbed the attention of governments, activists and well-known figures all over the world.

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Australian Government sources said Alqunun would be refused entry on the tourist visa because it did not reflect the real reason for her trip.

Ms Qunun's family could not be reached to respond to her allegations of abuse.

Women in Saudi Arabia are subject to male guardianship laws, which mean they need a male relative's permission to work, travel, marry, open a bank account, or even leave prison.

Ms Alqunun alleged several times that Saudi officials were involved in seizing her passport.

Saudi teenager Rahaf Alqunun's first reaction to the news Australia might resettle her was disbelief, then emojis. But who is Rahaf al-Qunun and why is her life in danger?

But, he added, "nobody wants to see a young girl in distress and she has obviously now found a safe haven in Thailand". In the past, Thailand have often breached their responsibilities to asylum seekers and refugees. After mounting a campaign for assistance on Twitter, she was allowed to temporarily stay in Thailand under the care of the United Nations refugee agency, which ruled her claim for asylum valid. "Whether he will try to find out where she is and go harass her". But she reported that Saudi Arabian officials took her passport in Bangkok.

But Saudi Arabia's charge d'affairs in Bangkok, Abdullah al-Shuaibi, denied Saudi authorities were involved.

"We welcome the leadership shown by the Thai authorities in Rahaf's case", the group's Middle East director of campaigns, Samah Hadid, said in a statement. The 18-year-old captured the world's attention in a series of Twitter posts that at times read like an worldwide thriller - with very real consequences.

Saudi Arabia's human rights record has come under intense scrutiny since the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi in October.