An 18-year-old Saudi woman who said she was abused by her family and feared for her life if deported back home has left Thailand for Canada, which has granted her asylum, officials said.
The fast-moving developments capped an eventful week for Qunun. She fled her family while visiting Kuwait and flew to Bangkok, where she barricaded herself in an airport hotel to avoid deportation and grabbed global attention by mounting a social media campaign for asylum.
Her case highlighted the cause of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, where several women fleeing abuse by their families have been caught trying to seek asylum abroad in recent years and returned home. Human rights activists say many similar cases go unreported. [Continue reading…]
At first, Nourah wasn’t sure what she was looking at when she received a Snapchat video from her friend Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun.
The short clip showed a pair of jeans and a dirty tile floor, then panned at the very end to what appeared to be an airport corridor.
“The Saudi Embassy stopped me in Thailand. My family has reported me,” a quiet woman’s voice says.
Qunun, 18, from Saudi Arabia, told Nourah she was at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand, and had been stopped by officials who said they would be sending her back to Kuwait, where her family had traveled for a trip.
At that moment, Nourah realized Qunun had done what she said she would do one day: flee from her relatives, who she said abused her, beat her, and threatened her with death. She said she’d recently renounced Islam and told Reuters, “My family threatens to kill me for the most trivial things.”
Within 24 hours of seeing that Snapchat video, Qunun, Nourah, and two other friends — most of whom have never met in person but grew close over a private group chat about feminism on the messaging app Telegram — launched and ran a Twitter account that live-tweeted one woman’s struggle to seek asylum. The posts captured the attention of the world, especially the government of Thailand and United Nations officials. [Continue reading…]