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Saudi asylum seeker in Thailand granted asylum in Australia: report

In this photo released by the Immigration Police, Chief of Immigration Police Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn, right, walks with Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun before leaving the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok Monday, Jan. 7, 2019.
Immigration police via AP
Thai authorities initially threatened to deport her after she arrived in Bangkok from Kuwait last weekend

The 18-year-old Saudi asylum seeker who fled her family to Thailand and harnessed the power of Twitter to stave off deportation has been granted asylum in Australia according to a Thai official, CNN reported Friday. 

"Yes, Australia has granted her asylum, but we are waiting to hear where exactly she is going," immigration police chief Surachate Hakparn reportedly confirmed to CNN.

The report comes as Rahaf abruptly suspended her Twitter account, with friends saying she had received death threats.

Though her asylum case has moved at lightning speed, Australia's foreign minister said this week that it was still assessing the request after the UN urged the country to accept her. 

The Southeast Asian country is not a signatory to a convention on refugees and asylum seekers must be referred to a third country.

Thailand's immigration chief Surachate Hakparn told reporters Friday that as far as he knows there are "two or three" countries who could offer asylum.

Until it is official, she is under the care of UNHCR in Bangkok. 

She has refused to see her father who traveled to Thailand and expressed opposition to her resettlement.

John SAEKI (AFP)

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun's attempt to flee the ultra-conservative kingdom has been embraced by rights groups as a beacon of defiance against repression.

Thai authorities initially threatened to deport her after she arrived in Bangkok from Kuwait last weekend.

But armed with a smartphone and a hastily opened Twitter account, she forced a U-turn from Thai immigration police who handed her into the care of the UN's refugee agency as the #SaveRahaf hashtag case bounced across the world.

Qunun alleges abuse by her family -- who deny the allegations -- and rights groups also said she had renounced Islam, risking prosecution in conservative Saudi Arabia.

On Friday afternoon she posted a final cryptic tweet on her profile saying "I have some good news and some bad news" -- shortly after her account was deactivated.

"Rahaf received death threats and for this reason she closed her Twitter account, please save Rahaf life," tweeted supporter @nourahfa313, who has flanked Rahaf's social media campaign with her own updates on Twitter.

"I understand that there have been death threats against her but I don't know the details," said Phil Robertson from Human Rights Watch, adding even threats from online trolls need to be taken seriously.

Rahaf's swift use of Twitter saw her amass more than 100,000 followers within a week, highlighting her plight and allowing her to avoid the fate of countless other refugees who are quietly sent back home or languish in Bangkok detention centers.

Comments

(2)

Hello! I fill with hope that OHCHR (women's rights branch) Chart will have its basic changes, Sooner than what world waiting for it. Thank you, Australia. Omid from, Iran.

Bravo!!!

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