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Rahaf Mohammed

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Rahaf Mohammed
Native name
رهف محمد مطلق القنون
Born
Rahaf Mohammed Mutlaq al-Qunun

(2000-03-11) 11 March 2000 (age 18)
ResidenceCanada (resettled refugee)
NationalitySaudi Arabian
OccupationStudent
Known forSeeking asylum from persecution

Rahaf Mohammed (formerly Rahaf Mohammed Mutlaq al-Qunun; Arabic: رهف محمد مطلق القنون‎; born 11 March 2000) is a Saudi woman who was detained by Thai authorities on 5 January 2019 while transiting through Bangkok airport, en route from Kuwait to Australia. She had intended to claim asylum in Australia and escape her family who she says abused her and threatened to kill her. After appealing for help on the social media service Twitter and thus gaining significant worldwide attention, Thai authorities abandoned their plans to forcibly return her to Kuwait (from where she would be repatriated to Saudi Arabia), and she was taken under the protection of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and granted refugee status. On 11 January, she was granted asylum in Canada and arrived in Toronto the next day.

Life in Saudi Arabia

Mohammed was born on 11 March 2000.[1] Her father is the town governor of al-Sulaimi, in the Ha'il Region.[2] She has nine siblings.[3]

She has said that her family prevented her from getting an education, had locked her up for months, subjected her to physical and psychological abuse,[4][5] wanted her to enter into an arranged marriage,[3] and threatened to kill her because she does not follow Islam.[4] Apostasy in Islam is a crime punishable by death according to the Sharia law of Saudi Arabia.[5]

Detention

Rahaf Mohammed رهف محمد via Twitter
@rahaf84427714

based on the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol, I'm rahaf mohmed, formally seeking a refugee status to any country that would protect me from getting harmed or killed due to leaving my religion and torture from my family.

6 January 2019[6]

While Mohammed was on vacation with her family in Kuwait, she left them and boarded a flight to Bangkok, Thailand. She intended to continue on another flight to seek asylum in Australia.[4] A tourist visa[7] had been issued to her that permitted entry into Australia.[4] Her family reportedly filed a missing person report after her escape from Kuwait. Upon arrival at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, a man greeted her, not disclosing that he was a Saudi embassy official, and told her that he needed her passport so that he could help her obtain a Thai visa. He left with her passport and did not return. Mohammed never intended to leave the airport's transit area[8][9] and therefore did not require a Thai visa.

She was detained by Thai authorities at the Miracle Transit Hotel[10] within the airport.[8][11]

Mohammed opened an account on Twitter, and in a series of posts said that she had renounced Islam and was concerned that she could be murdered by her family in a so-called "honor killing" if deported to Saudi Arabia.[9][12][8][13] She also said she had barricaded herself in her hotel room, was refusing to exit until she met with UN representatives, claimed refugee status, and implored embassy officials of various Western nations to assist her in seeking asylum.[4] This drew world-wide support, with more than half a million tweets using the "#SaveRahaf" hashtag.[14] In one tweet, she shared a picture of her passport.[1][9] Australian ABC Journalist Sophie McNeill barricaded herself with Mohammed in the room to protect her.[15][16] While barricaded Mohammed also allowed a friend to tweet on her behalf.[17][7]

Lawyers in Thailand filed an injunction to prevent her forced deportation.[18] The injunction was subsequently dismissed,[8] though an appeal was planned.[10] Thailand's chief of immigration at the Royal Thai Police Surachate Hakparn subsequently confirmed that authorities in the country had acted at the behest of Saudi Arabia.[8]

Mohammed was scheduled to be forcibly repatriated on a flight to Kuwait on 7 January 2019, but successfully avoided that. The Thai government later released a statement saying that it would not deport her.[19] François Zimeray, a lawyer chosen by the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights to defend Mohammed in Bangkok against deportation back to Saudi Arabia, judged the role of Mohammed's tweets to have played an overwhelming role in preventing her deportation.[20] Zimeray stated that the Thai authorities' attitude changed "completely" in "a few minutes" when they realized the strength of international support for Mohammed.[20] Mohammed revealed in a later interview that she wrote a goodbye letter and decided that she would end her life if she was to be forced back to Saudi Arabia.[21]

Initial discrepancies in Thai government's accounts of events

In an initial assessment on 5 January 2019, Human Rights Watch Asia deputy director Phil Robertson said "the Thai government... (was then) manufacturing a story that she tried to apply for a visa and it was denied... in fact, she had an onward ticket to go to Australia, she didn't want to enter Thailand in the first place."[9] Two days later on 7 January 2019, after international pressure, the Thai official overseeing immigration in the case, General Surachate Hakparn, was seen walking beside Mohammed, and stated that "We will not send anyone to die. We will not do that. We will adhere to human rights under the rule of law."[22] Subsequently, she was placed under the care of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), her passport, which had indeed included a valid Australian tourist visa, was returned to her, and formal arrangements for the establishment of her long-term asylum status began.[23]

UN involvement

The UNHCR issued a statement on 7 January, stating that:[24]

The Thai authorities have granted UNHCR access to Saudi national, Rahaf Mohammed Al-qunun, at Bangkok airport to assess her need for international refugee protection... For reasons of confidentiality and protection, we will not be in a position to comment on the details of the meeting.

Mohammed subsequently left the airport in the care of the agency,[8] which later granted her refugee status and asked the Australian government to consider granting her asylum.[2] Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton stated in a radio interview with journalists that Mohammed seemed to be safe in Thailand.[25] With growing concerns over her safety and an unclear timeline how long Australia would take to process her application, the UNHCR referred her case to Canada and her application was processed within several hours.[21]

Asylum in Canada

On 11 and 12 January Mohammed flew to Toronto via Seoul, having being granted asylum by Canada,[3][26][27] as a "resettled refugee".[28] The UNHCR said this had been arranged "on a fast-track 'emergency' basis".[28] She was greeted at Toronto Pearson International Airport by Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland.[29][30]

Reaction

Mohammed's family released a statement disowning her:[21]

We are the family of [Rahaf] Mohammed al-Qunun in Saudi Arabia. We disavow the so-called 'Rahaf al-Qunun' the mentally unstable daughter who has displayed insulting and disgraceful behavior.

After learning about her family disavowing her, she decided to drop al-Qunun from her name and to be known as "Rahaf Mohammed"[31][32][33]

Abdullah al-Shuaibi, Saudi Arabia's chargé d'affaires in Bangkok, was quoted saying, in a meeting with the Thai immigration office:[16]

When [Rahaf] first arrived in Thailand, she opened a new [Twitter account] and the followers reached about 45,000 within one day... I wish you had taken her phone, it would have been better than [taking] her passport

Mohammed's case has been compared to those of Dina Ali Lasloom,[8][23] and Hakeem al-Araibi.[34] Stephen Kalin, writing for Reuters, described Mohammed's case as triggering a new phase in the Saudi anti male-guardianship campaign.[16][35][36]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b @rahaf84427714 (6 January 2019). "This is a copy of my passport, Im shering it with you now because I want you to know I'm real and exist" (Tweet). Archived from the original on 6 January 2019 – via Twitter.
  2. ^ a b "Saudi woman 'given refugee status'". BBC News. 9 January 2019. Archived from the original on 9 January 2019. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  3. ^ a b c "Saudi woman fleeing family flies to Canada after gaining asylum". The Guardian. 11 January 2019. Archived from the original on 12 January 2019. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e Fullerton, Jamie; Davidson, Helen (7 January 2019). "'He wants to kill her': friend confirms fears of Saudi woman held in Bangkok". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 10 January 2019. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  5. ^ a b Megas, Natalia (15 January 2019). "'We know exactly what Rahaf is feeling': Friend of Saudi woman granted asylum in Canada speaks out". The Lily. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  6. ^ Rahaf Mohammed رهف محمد [@rahaf84427714] (6 January 2019). "based on the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol, I'm rahaf mohmed, formally seeking a refugee status to any country that would protect me from getting harmed or killed due to leaving my religion and torture from my family" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  7. ^ a b "Australian-based friend of Rahaf Alqunun says she just wants any safe country". ABC Local Radio. 8 January 2019. Archived from the original on 13 January 2019. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g "Rahaf al-Qunun: Saudi woman ends airport hotel standoff". BBC News. 7 January 2019. Archived from the original on 12 January 2019. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  9. ^ a b c d "Saudi woman 'trapped trying to flee'". BBC News. 6 January 2019. Archived from the original on 11 January 2019. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  10. ^ a b Thaitrakulpanich, Asaree (7 January 2019). "Standoff at Suvarnabhumi as Saudi Woman Resists Deportation". Khaosod English. Archived from the original on 7 January 2019. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  11. ^ Paddock, Richard C. (7 January 2019). "Fleeing Saudi Woman Is Staying in Thailand for Now". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  12. ^ Paddock, Richard C.; Hubbard, Ben (6 January 2019). "Saudi Woman Who Tried to Flee Family Says, 'They Will Kill Me'". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  13. ^ "Rahaf Alqunun: Thailand admits Saudi woman seeking asylum". Al Jazeera. 7 January 2019. Archived from the original on 12 January 2019. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  14. ^ Chen, Heather; Mei Lin, Mayuri (10 January 2019). "#SaveRahaf: How Twitter saved a Saudi woman". BBC News. Archived from the original on 13 January 2019. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  15. ^ "Inside a barricaded hotel room with the Saudi woman seeking Australian asylum". Australian ABC. 8 January 2019. Archived from the original on 12 January 2019. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  16. ^ a b c Tanakasempipat, Patpicha; Wongcha-um, Panu (8 January 2019). "#SaveRahaf: Activists' lightning campaign made Saudi teen's flight..." Reuters. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  17. ^ "Australia urged to help Saudi teenager barricaded inside Thai hotel room". The Guardian. 7 January 2019. Archived from the original on 12 January 2019. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  18. ^ Schwartz, Matthew S. (7 January 2019). "Saudi Teen Seeks Asylum, Fears Family Will Kill Her". NPR. Archived from the original on 12 January 2019. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  19. ^ Kaewjinda, Kaweewit; Batrawy, Aya (7 January 2019). "Thai police say they won't deport Saudi woman seeking asylum". AP NEWS. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  20. ^ a b Moine, Anais (12 January 2019). "Tout juste reconnue réfugiée, Rahaf Mohammed témoigne de son bonheur" [Just after receiving asylum, Rahaf Mohammed describes her happiness] (in French). Aufeminin. Archived from the original on 12 January 2019. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
  21. ^ a b c McNeill, Sophie (15 January 2019). "Saudi teen Rahaf al Qunun pledges to use her freedom to campaign for others". ABC News. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  22. ^ Batrawy, Aya (7 January 2019). "Rahaf Al-Qunun, fleeing Saudi Arabia, allowed to stay in Thailand". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 10 January 2019. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  23. ^ a b Fullerton, Jamie; Davidson, Helen (8 January 2019). "'You saved Rahaf's life': online outcry kept 'terrified' Saudi woman safe, says friend". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 13 January 2019. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  24. ^ "UNHCR statement on the situation of Rahaf Mohammed Al-qunun at Bangkok airport". United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 7 January 2019. Archived from the original on 7 January 2019. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  25. ^ "Saudi teen Rahaf Alqunun slams Australian government for taking 'too long' to grant her asylum". www.news.com.au. 12 January 2019. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  26. ^ "Rahaf al-Qunun: Saudi teen granted asylum in Canada". BBC News. 11 January 2019. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  27. ^ Dangerfield, Katie; Joseph, Rebecca (11 January 2019). "Canada grants asylum to Saudi teen who fled alleged family abuse". Global News. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  28. ^ a b "UNHCR statement on Canada's resettlement of Saudi national Rahaf Al-Qunun". UNHCR. 11 January 2019. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  29. ^ Cecco, Leyland (12 January 2019). "Rahaf al-Qunun lands in Toronto after long journey to safety". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
  30. ^ "Saudi teen refugee arrives in Canada". BBC News. 12 January 2019. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
  31. ^ "'Nothing to lose': Saudi teen Rahaf Mohammed details family abuse". Al Jazeera. 15 January 2019. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  32. ^ "I feel born again, says Saudi who fled to Canada to escape 'abuse'". Evening Standard. 15 January 2019. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  33. ^ "Saudi Woman Who Fled Country Hopes She Inspires Others To Follow". NPR. 15 January 2019. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  34. ^ Davidson, Helen (10 January 2019). "Rahaf and Hakeem: why has one refugee captured the world's attention while another is left in jail?". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  35. ^ Kalin, Stephen (10 January 2019). "Saudi woman's flight rallies opposition to male guardianship". Archived from the original on 10 January 2019. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  36. ^ Hincks, Joseph (10 January 2019). "Saudi Women Are Demanding Change After a Teen Fled the Country". Time. Retrieved 13 January 2019.

External links