Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun has been at Bangkok’s Airport since Saturday. She wanted to fly to Australia in front of her family, who had been holding her captive for months.
Saudi Arabia wants to open under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, but women are by no means equal to men. For example, on Sunday, the case of an 18-year-old from Saudi Arabia caused international attention. According to her, she was stopped by Saudi Arabian and Kuwaiti embassy officials while fleeing from her family at Bangkok’s international airport.
Rahaf Mohammed Al-Qunun reportedly barricaded herself in her hotel room at the Bangkok airport. Phil Robertson, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said the woman wanted to meet someone from the UN refugee agency UNHCR to seek asylum. Al-Qunun’s family was on their way to Kuwait when the 18-year-old fled to Bangkok. The woman wanted to make her way to Australia. On Monday, authorities in Thailand want to send the woman back to Kuwait, where most of her family lives.
According to Human Rights Watch, the woman is at risk of being prosecuted for “parental disobedience”. This could result in a prison sentence.
Physical, emotional and verbal abuse and the fact that she was trapped in her own home for months would have led her to make the decision. Her family wanted to prevent her from further education, she was not allowed to travel or drive, “I am oppressed,” said al-Qunun.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been pushing liberal social reforms in the ultra-conservative kingdom for some time. For example, women have been allowed to drive a car since June and were also admitted to sports stadiums for the first time. At the same time, numerous women’s rights activists have been arrested in recent months. There is also criticism in the ongoing system whereby male relatives can oversee women and make arbitrary decisions for them.