The story of Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun went viral overnight.
Rahaf, an 18 year old woman from Saudi Arabia, had been in Kuwait with her family. But she had renounced Islam and was trying to flee to seek asylum in Australia.
But she ran into a problem on a stop in Bangkok when she said a Saudi official grabbed her documents.
Because she had no documents to continue on, Thai officials were saying that she was then going to be deported back to Kuwait where her life would be in danger. “Renouncing Islam is technically punishable by the death penalty in Saudi Arabia,” Adam Coogle of Human Rights Watch said although they have not generally employed it. But she could be sentenced for apostasy and that’s not even saying what her family might do to her.
Rahaf then barricaded herself in her hotel room and tweeted, begging the world to help her.
Qunun said she was fleeing her family and had faced abuse, beatings and death threats. “My brothers and family and the Saudi embassy will be waiting for me in Kuwait,” she told Reuters.
“My life is in danger. My family threatens to kill me for the most trivial things.”
Her story then went viral.
She refused to let anyone in, saying she would only speak to UN officials.
The attention seemed to make the Thai officials change their minds on the question.
“If deporting her would result in her death, we definitely wouldn’t want to do that,” Lt. Gen. Surachate Hakparn said at a press conference.
Surachate said, “Since Thailand is the ‘Land of Smiles,’ of course we won’t send someone to their death.”
UN officials made contact with Qunun at around 6 p.m. Monday (local time) in Suvarnabhumi airport to assess her need for international protection.
While the story is still evolving, Sophie McNeil, the ABC News Middle East reporter who has been following the case has reported that Rahaf is with UN officials, that she has been taken out of the airport and is “safe.”
So it sounds like she’s safe. Let’s hope she’s able to get out of the country safely to Australia.