Father of Saudi teen asylum seeker in Thailand, seeks meeting

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She said Rahaf's plight is informed by many oppressions suffered by women in Saudi Arabia and in the Middle East generally.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun is now being evaluated by the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) to assess her need for global protection, a process that usually takes months.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, 18, plotted an escape from what she describes as persistent abuse and oppression by family members in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia's human rights record has been under heavy scrutiny since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi late a year ago.

Alharbi mentioned the case of Dina Ali Lasloom, a 24-year-old Saudi woman who in April 2017 was returned to Saudi Arabia from the Philippines against her will and whose fate is unclear.

She left the room yesterday after the United Nations refugee agency offered her protection and agreed to take over her case from Thai authorities, which had initially tried to have her returned to her family.

We now know she is safe, in the care of the UN Human Rights Council in Bangkok awaiting a decision on her request for asylum in Australia or Canada.

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However, Thai immigration chief Surachate Hakpan said the men would have to wait to learn whether the UN's refugee agency would allow them to.

Al-Qunun alleged several times that Saudi officials were involved in seizing her passport.

In a separate statement to Australia's The New Daily, the government said it is making a representation to the Thai government and UNHCR's office in Bangkok to assess Alqunun's claim "expeditiously".

Alqunun said she planned to seek asylum in Australia, fearing she would be killed if repatriated by Thai immigration officials who stopped her at the airport.

Even though Thailand has at least 100,000 refugees within its borders, the country is not a signatory to the UNHRC and has no legal protection to those who seek asylum.

The UNHCR insists anyone with an asylum claim should not be sent back to the country they fled under the principle of non-refoulement.

She also gave access to her social media account to her friend Noura, who also fled Saudi Arabia because she renounced Islam.

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The case was a "family affair", but under the "care and attention" of the embassy, it added.

"When she first arrived in Thailand, she opened a new site (account) and the followers reached about 45,000 within one day", a Saudi official speaking in Arabic through a translator told Thai officials in the video, referring to the Twitter account. The embassy - and Thai officials - earlier also said that Alqunun was stopped by Thai authorities in Bangkok because she did not have a return ticket, a hotel reservation or itinerary to show she was a tourist, which appeared to have raised a red flag about the reasons for her trip. Gen. Surachate Hakparn, told reporters Tuesday that Saudi diplomats told him they were satisfied with how her case had been handled.

A United Nations spokesperson told NPR that the refugee agency has had no contact with either family member but that the father and son are communicating with Thai authorities to try to meet with Alqunun. "It is not political at all".

"The position of two countries on this matter is the same - that the priority is to provide her safety".

Through her newly launched Twitter account, Rahaf has been calling on all several country to help her seek refugee status including the US, UK, Canada and Australia.

"I wish you had taken her phone, it would have been better than (taking) her passport", the official said.

"Only she can make that choice, she's an adult woman who can make her own decisions!" "She didn't get that [social media] support and that's why she's in Saudi Arabia now - she's disappeared", Alharbi said.

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Qunun has said she believes she will be imprisoned or killed if sent back, and that her family is so strict they once locked her in a room for six months for cutting her hair.

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