Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun 'trapped at Bangkok airport' fears family will kill her if she is returned

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun claims she is stranded at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport. Credit: AP/Twitter/Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun

A Saudi teenager claims she is stranded at Bangkok's airport after fleeing her family and having her passport confiscated, and fears she will be killed if returned to Saudi Arabia.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun - who is tweeting from inside Suvarnabhumi Airport - has used her Twitter account to appeal to countries across the world to accept her as a refugee as she fears "getting harmed or killed due to leaving my religion and torture from my family".

Renouncing Islam can result in the death penalty in Saudi Arabia.

The teenager said she ran away from her family two days ago while visiting Kuwait, but was detained at the airport after trying to board a connecting flight to Australia.

The 18-year-old claims an official from the Saudi embassy has confiscated her passport and is "trying to force me to go back to Saudi Arabia".

The teenager alleges that she has been "locked in an airport hotel room" awaiting her "forcible" return to Saudi Arabia via Kuwait, and that she cannot ask for "protection or even asylum in Thailand, the Thai police refuse to cooperate with me".

Ms Mohammed al-Qunun tweeted a picture from inside her hotel room in the airport. Credit: Twitter/Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun

Ms Mohammed al-Qunun believes her "life is at stake and I am now in real danger if I am forcibly returned to Saudi Arabia", adding she fears her family will kill her if she is returned to them.

Ms Mohammed al-Qunun has used her Twitter account to appeal to nations such as the UK, Canada, the US, and Australia for "protection", citing the 1951 Refugees Convention and 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees - UN agreements which set out who is a refugee and their rights - "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".

The teenager tweeted both Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and US President Donald Trump directly, asking them for clemency.

The teenager also claimed to "have been threatened by several staff from the Saudi embassy and Kuwait Airways" who told her: "If you run, we will find you and kidnap you, then deal with you."

"I really don't know how they are going to behave in case I run," she added.

Ms Mohammed al-Qunun also said she has been made to sign papers which she has not read.

It is thought the teenager is due to be deported at 4.15am (11.15am local time).

Ms Mohammed al-Qunun was stopped at Suvarnabhumi Airport where she intended to catch a connecting flight to Australia. Credit: AP

Thai police Major General Surachate Hakparn told the BBC that Ms Mohammed al-Qunun was escaping a marriage, but because she did not have a visa to enter Thailand, he said police had denied her entry and were in the process of repatriating her through the same airline she had taken, Kuwait Airlines.

Gen Surachate said he was unaware of any passport seizure.

It is unclear why Ms Mohammed al-Qunun would need a Thai visa if she was in transit to Australia and had an Australian visa - something she claims she had.

Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director at Human Rights Watch claimed that Thailand is "manufacturing fake stories" about Ms Mohammed al-Qunun applying for a Thai visa, since she only intended to pass through the country as she caught a connecting flight to Australia.

"This looks like Thai & Saudi Arabia playing games to me," he added.

Ms Mohammed al-Qunun's case is similar to that of another Saudi woman who was forcibly sent back to her family after she tried to flee to Australia in 2017.

Dina Ali Lasloom, 24, was en route from Kuwait via the Philippines but was taken back to Saudi Arabia from Manila airport by her family.

She used a Canadian tourist's phone to send a message, a video of which was posted to Twitter, saying her family would kill her.

Her fate on arriving back in Saudi Arabia remains unknown.

Saudi Arabia imposes an unequal guardianship system which sees women have to obtain a male relative's permission - normally a father, husband or son - when making "major decisions" such as:

  • Applying for passports

  • Travelling abroad

  • Getting married

  • Opening a bank account

  • Starting certain businesses

  • Getting elective surgery

  • Leaving prison