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Saudi Teen Leaves Twitter After Death Threats

Australia and Canada talking with Thai officials about resettling Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 11, 2019 8:10 AM CST
Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, right, walks with an unidentified companion in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday.   (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
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(Newser) – Canada and Australia are in talks with the UN refugee agency to accept a Saudi asylum seeker who fled alleged abuse from her family. Thailand's immigration police chief, Surachate Hakparn, told reporters the UN was accelerating the case, though he gave no indication of when the process would be complete, per the AP. Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun was stopped at a Bangkok airport on Saturday by Thai immigration police who denied her entry and seized her passport. While barricading herself in an airport hotel room, the 18-year-old launched a social media campaign via her Twitter account that drew global attention. It garnered enough public and diplomatic support to convince Thai officials to admit her temporarily under the protection of UN officials.

By Friday, Alqunun had closed down her Twitter account. Sophie McNeill, a reporter with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation who has had exclusive access to Alqunun, tweeted Friday that the teen "is safe and fine" but is taking a break from posting because of death threats. Alqunun had previously said on Twitter that she wishes to seek refuge in Australia, and that nation's foreign minister met with Thai officials in Bangkok on Thursday. Marise Payne later told reporters that Australia is assessing Alqunun's request, but there was no specific timeframe. Alqunun's case has highlighted the cause of women's rights in Saudi Arabia. Several female Saudis fleeing abuse by their families have been caught trying to seek asylum abroad in recent years and returned home. Human rights activists say many similar cases have gone unreported.

(Read more Saudi Arabia stories.)

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