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Australia-bound Saudi teen held in Bangkok

Saudi teen

An 18-year-old Saudi woman fleeing her home country for Australia is calling on people inside Bangkok airport to protest against her deportation to Kuwait.

A young Saudi woman seeking asylum in Australia is calling for help from people inside Bangkok airport as she awaits deportation to Kuwait.

Rahaf Mohammed Mutlaq Alqunun, 18, claims she was abducted on Sunday and had her passport confiscated by Saudi Arabian diplomatic staff on arrival at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport.

“I’m calling for all people inside the transit area in Bangkok to protest against deporting me to Kuwait,” she tweeted on Monday.

“Please I need u all. I’m shouting out for help of humanity.”

The Twitter account has been taken over by someone purporting to be Ms Alqunun’s friend, who appeared to confirm the teenager was not on a flight which left Bangkok for Kuwait on Monday afternoon.

“I have a good news guys the plane is gone, and Rahaf is (safe) for now.”

Ms Alqunun earlier said she was being held at an airport hotel by diplomatic and airline staff, despite having a visa to travel to Australia.

She vowed to not leave the room until she speaks with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Ms Alqunun said she had been abused by her family and would be killed if she returned home and posted her passport details on Twitter to confirm her identity.

Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said she was concerned by the reports over the situation and had sought further information from the government.

“It is a very distressing position she is in,” Senator Wong said.

Saudi Arabian authorities have denied their involvement, saying Thai officials stopped Ms Alqunun because she did not have a return ticket or an itinerary to show she was a tourist.

“She will be deported to the state of Kuwait where her family live,” the Saudi Embassy said in a statement.

“The embassy does not have the authority to stop her at the airport or anywhere else.”

Human Rights Watch Asia division deputy director Phil Robertson said the organisation was trying to lodge an asylum claim with the UNHCR.

He also questioned a statement by Thailand’s Immigration chief to the BBC that Ms Alqunun did not have a travel visa, which prevented her entering the country.

Saudi women are subject to strict male guardianship laws and must obtain consent from a male relative for travel documents.

Ms Alqunun told a Thai human rights worker her family kept her in her room for six months because she cut her hair.

She had asserted her independence and renounced Islam but had been forced to pray, wear a hijab and was beaten by her brother.

Ms Alqunun is understood to have fled from her family two days ago while they were on a trip to Kuwait.

Mr Robertson said Ms Alqunun was in transit to Australia when detained and did not need a visa, which is available on arrival.

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