Bangkok, the UN gives refugee status to the 18-year-old Saudite on the run

A request has been sent to the Australian government to accept Rahaf Mohammed Al-Qunun and grant her asylum. Canberra is evaluating the application; no comment from the Riyadh authorities. The importance of online mobilization for her case. Saudi official: better to withdraw her phone rather than her passport.

Bangkok (AsiaNews / Agencies) - UN experts have granted refugee status to Saudi 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, who has been blocked in Thailand in an attempt to flee to Australia in search of "freedom and rights". The UN has sent a request to the Canberra government to give the go-ahead for her to enter its territory and to guarantee political asylum to the young woman.

The Australian Interior Ministry reports that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has sent the file of "Rahaf Mohammed Al-Qunun to Australia" for a possible "granting of asylum", as a beneficiary "of the status of refugee". Now it is up to Canberra to assess the situation and a possible relocation to the country.

The Australian government has confirmed that "it will evaluate the request under the usual rules" and "there will be no further comments" on the matter, even if the granting of asylum is quite probable. The Saudi front remains tight lipped with no official statements or comments since the beginning of the dispute.

Yesterday, the young woman’s father, together with her brother, arrived in Thailand; however, Rahaf refused to meet them. In Saudi Arabia the crime of apostasy is punishable by the death penalty and the girl has repeatedly stated that, in case of repatriation, she would be killed.

The United Nations decision and the now likely final landing place in Australia represent a victory for the 18 year old Saudi, who is still in Bangkok where she has been stuck for days waiting to embark for Australia. At first the Thai authorities tried to prevent her from leaving, to send her back to her country of origin.

In recent days, the story has taken on international significance, thanks also to the constant update on the girl's twitter profile, managed by a compatriot and feminist. In one of the many videos released on social networks, a Saudi official complains to the Thai authorities, guilty of not having confiscated the 18-year-old's cell phone. "When she arrived, she opened a new (Twitter) account and her followers grew to 45,000 in one day," he said in Arabic.  "It would have been better if they had confiscated her mobile instead of her passport."