News | World News | Australia appears set to offer asylum to Saudi teen as topless protest is held in Sydney

Australia appears set to offer asylum to Saudi teen as topless protest is held in Sydney

Popular Articles

Australia appears set to offer asylum to Saudi teen who fled to Thailand as foreign minister travels to Bangkok… while bizarre topless protest is held in Sydney in support of her plight

  • Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun fled her Saudi Arabian family and flew to Thailand
  • Ms al-Qunun fears she will be killed if she goes home to her 'abusive' relatives
  • The Australian government is now considering granting the 18-year-old asylum 
  • Group of women called Secret Sisterhood held a topless protest in Sydney today 

By Charlie Moore For Daily Mail Australia and Julian Robinson for MailOnline

Published: 03:10 EST, 10 January 2019 | Updated: 03:21 EST, 10 January 2019

View
comments

Australia looks set to offer asylum to a Saudi teenager who fled to Thailand after the foreign minister travelled to Bangkok to discuss her case.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun flew to the Thai capital last week saying she feared her family would kill her after she renounced Islam and 'rebelled' against her father. 

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne was in Bangkok today after Canberra said it would consider giving asylum to the 18-year-old. Payne said this morning that there was no timeframe for the assessment of the case.

Her visit came as four women staged a bizarre topless protest in Sydney in support of the teenager's plight.

Demonstration: A group of young women staged a topless protest in Sydney's CBD this morning to demand a Saudi teenage refugee be given asylum in Australia
Demonstration: A group of young women staged a topless protest in Sydney's CBD this morning to demand a Saudi teenage refugee be given asylum in Australia

Demonstration: A group of young women staged a topless protest in Sydney's CBD this morning to demand a Saudi teenage refugee be given asylum in Australia

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun (pictured) has reacted to news Australia is considering granting her asylum, saying, 'Is it true??? Australia wants me to go there??? I'm so happy' 
Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun (pictured) has reacted to news Australia is considering granting her asylum, saying, 'Is it true??? Australia wants me to go there??? I'm so happy' 

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun (pictured) has reacted to news Australia is considering granting her asylum, saying, 'Is it true??? Australia wants me to go there??? I'm so happy' 

The so-called Secret Sisterhood posted on social media a video of their protest in Sydney's Martin Place in which they stood topless with signs reading 'let her in'.

The group also set up a fundraising page for the teenager which had raised more than $3,000 by this morning.

The page read: 'Rahaf Alqunun, still a teen at 18 years old, has demonstrated a huge amount of courage fleeing from her country and her family in Saudi Arabia. 

'As a global Secret Sisterhood, we will look after her once she arrives safely, but we need help to make sure she has resettlement and protection funds. Because her story has gained worldwide attention these funds are needed for her to set up safely in a new country.'        

Last night, Ms al-Qunun reacted with joy the news of possible asylum, writing on Twitter: 'Is it true??? Australia wants me to go there??? I'm so happy.'  

Ms al-Qunun, pictured at Bangkok airport, ran away from a family trip to Kuwait last week and flew to Thailand in the hope of reaching Australia on a tourist visa
Ms al-Qunun, pictured at Bangkok airport, ran away from a family trip to Kuwait last week and flew to Thailand in the hope of reaching Australia on a tourist visa

Ms al-Qunun, pictured at Bangkok airport, ran away from a family trip to Kuwait last week and flew to Thailand in the hope of reaching Australia on a tourist visa

The 18-year-old was detained in Thailand following her arrival in the country. She is pictured having barricaded herself in an airport hotel room  in a bid to avoid deportation
The 18-year-old was detained in Thailand following her arrival in the country. She is pictured having barricaded herself in an airport hotel room  in a bid to avoid deportation

The 18-year-old was detained in Thailand following her arrival in the country. She is pictured having barricaded herself in an airport hotel room in a bid to avoid deportation

The 18-year-old's message was accompanied by a series of emojis, including praying hands, a smiley face and a dancing woman.  

Australia's Department of Home Affairs revealed on Wednesday it will consider Ms al-Qunun referral from the UN, which ruled she was a refugee. 

'The UNHCR has referred Ms Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun to Australia for consideration for refugee resettlement,' a statement from the department said. 

'The Department of Home Affairs will consider this referral in the usual way, as it does with all UNHCR referrals.'

Ms al-Qunun will be subject to Australian checks before she is granted a humanitarian visa, including character and security assessments. 

But Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said al-Qunun will not be given any 'special treatment'.

'Nobody wants to see a young girl in distress and she has obviously now found a safe haven in Thailand,' Mr Dutton said.  

Ms al-Qunun (pictured) claims her family would kill her if she were sent home to Saudi Arabia, where she has renounced Islam and 'rebelled' against her father
Ms al-Qunun (pictured) claims her family would kill her if she were sent home to Saudi Arabia, where she has renounced Islam and 'rebelled' against her father

Ms al-Qunun (pictured) claims her family would kill her if she were sent home to Saudi Arabia, where she has renounced Islam and 'rebelled' against her father

Ms al-Qunun's defiant message after her ordeal in Bangkok airport was to 'fight and get your rights'
Ms al-Qunun's defiant message after her ordeal in Bangkok airport was to 'fight and get your rights'

Ms al-Qunun's defiant message after her ordeal in Bangkok airport was to 'fight and get your rights'

The Saudi teenager posted the caption 'Hey.. I'm happy', alongside a smiling selfie on her Twitter account after the United Nations ruled she was a refugee
The Saudi teenager posted the caption 'Hey.. I'm happy', alongside a smiling selfie on her Twitter account after the United Nations ruled she was a refugee

The Saudi teenager posted the caption 'Hey.. I'm happy', alongside a smiling selfie on her Twitter account after the United Nations ruled she was a refugee

Ms al-Qunun remains in Thailand after she ran away from a family trip to Kuwait last week and flew to Bangkok in the hope of reaching Australia on a tourist visa.   

She reportedly spent months plotting her escape having planned it with the help of friends in Australia, Canada and Sweden who had also left Saudi Arabia behind, the Australian reported.

But things went awry after she landed in Bangkok, where she wanted to spend a day or two breathing in fresh air as a free woman - despite friends warning her it was risky.

Her friend Shahad, 19, who fled Saudi Arabia for Sweden, said Ms al-Qunun was advised 'no, you cannot stay. It's too dangerous'.

'We say that to every woman who wants to skip Saudi. Rahaf chose Thailand because she believed there was no Saudi embassy there,' Shahad told The Australian.

Shahad added Ms al-Qunun 'thought it was not a dangerous place' and said the friends had 'bought her a ticket to Australia from Thailand but she didn't listen to us'.

Ms al-Qunun saved money for several months for the trip to Australia, where she was to seek asylum following her arrival.

But she was barred from entering Thailand, and the Thai government threatened to deport her back to Kuwait, leading to her barricading herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room with a table and mattress. 

Ms al-Qunun is currently in the care of UN officials and under the protection of Thai police. 

She has claimed her family would kill her if she were sent home to Saudi Arabia, where she has renounced Islam and 'rebelled' against her father.

She took to Twitter to post updates on her detention in an appeal for help from international authorities.

Her father and brother arrived in Bangkok on Wednesday, but Ms al-Qunun refused to meet them. 

Ms al-Qunun's father denied ever physically abusing her, Thai immigration chief General Surachate Hakparn told reporters.  

Ms al-Qunun will be subject to Australian checks before she is granted a humanitarian visa, including character and security assessments
Ms al-Qunun will be subject to Australian checks before she is granted a humanitarian visa, including character and security assessments

Ms al-Qunun will be subject to Australian checks before she is granted a humanitarian visa, including character and security assessments

Ms al-Qunun is currently in the care of UN officials and under the protection of Thai police
Ms al-Qunun is currently in the care of UN officials and under the protection of Thai police

Ms al-Qunun is currently in the care of UN officials and under the protection of Thai police

'He said that he has been taking good care of his daughter, he never forced her or hurt her. He said that in Saudia Arabia there is an agency that enforces the law [against abuse], and he certainly couldn't do anything illegal,' General Surachate said. 

'He has 10 children. He said the daughter might feel neglected sometimes. But he didn't go into detail.'

When the United Nations ruled Ms al-Qunun is officially a refugee, she posted a selfie on Twitter with the caption, 'Hey... I'm happy', alongside a heart and praying hands emoji.

She then added in a separate post: 'Don't let anyone break your wings, you're free. fight and get your RIGHTS!', followed by a post in Arabic which read, 'I made it'.

Advertisement
Read more:
View All

MOST WATCHED NEWS VIDEOS

By Shawn Arnette 10/01/2019 03:21:00