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Saudi Woman Who Fled to Thailand Fears Death if Sent Home

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun is seen in an undated social media image.
Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun is seen in an undated social media image.

A young Saudi woman who fled to Thailand is pleading not to be forced back to Saudi Arabia.

"I just want to survive," 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun said in a social media video where she can be seen pacing inside a Bangkok airport hotel room.

"My family is strict and locked me in a room for six months just for cutting my hair. I am 100% certain they will kill me as soon as I get out of the Saudi jail."

Rahaf fled from Kuwait during a family vacation and arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport Saturday night, intending to seek asylum in Australia.

Thai authorities refused to let her into the country, saying she had no travel documents or money.

But Rahaf says Saudi and Kuwait officials took away her passport when she arrived, a claim backed up by Human Rights Watch.

"Thai authorities should immediately halt any deportation and either allow her to continue her travel to Australia or permit her to remain in Thailand to seek protection as a refugee," Human Rights Watch deputy Middle East director Michael Page said.

He appealed to Saudi and Thai officials not to follow through with their plans to send Rahaf back to Kuwait Monday.

"Saudi women fleeing their families can face severe violence from relatives, deprivation of liberty, and other serious harm if returned against their will," he said.

Women have few civil rights in the ultra-conservative Saudi kingdom. They need permission from a male relative to obtain a passport and travel overseas.

Females who commit so-called crimes against morality can sometimes meet the death penalty.

Another Saudi woman, Dina Lasloom, flew to the Philippines in 2017 while trying to escape Saudi Arabia.

An airline security official reported seeing her dragged out of the airport with her mouth, hands, and feet bound with duct tape.

Human rights activists have seen no trace of her since.