There remains confusion in Thailand over the fate of Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, who is seeking asylum after renouncing Islam and refusing to be treated as chattel under the medieval laws of Saudi Arabia. We have previously discussed the sexist and repressive laws imposed on women in the Kingdom, making adult women effective wards of male family members, including younger siblings or family members. Since the Saudis kill people for apostasy, the fear of this young woman is real and immediate. She is deserving of asylum and the United States should show that it truly believes in women’s rights and step forward to give her protection against our Saudi allies.
Thai officials seem to be struggling with the pressure from the Saudi government and have retracted earlier statements about Qunun being granted asylum. Thai officials seemed to be initially unresponsive and unhelpful to the woman who fled her family on a visit to Kuwait. She is seeking asylum in both Australia and Canada.
Qunun barricaded herself in a hotel to prevent being sent back to Saudi Arabia when Thai officials reportedly failed to assist her in her asylum claim. Authorities eventually allowed her access to the UNHCR and did not deport her to Kuwait.
She has also mentioned the United States as a country for asylum. Accepting her would sent a message to Saudi Arabia that we care about the rights of women and girls in the Kingdom. We have lost considerable standing in the world with our accommodation of Saudi Arabia after it murdered a journalist and then lied repeatedly about it.
Qunan has both religious and gender discrimination claims that present a serious concern over her safety if returned to Saudi Arabia.