Rahaf was nearly deported while travelling via Thailand to seek her asylum  

21 May 2019

Amnesty International Thailand

As she decided to wear a crop haircut, Rahaf had been confined to her room for six months. The punishment was the last straw that prompted the 18-year-old-Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun from Saudi Arabia to hatch a plan to escape from her family.  Now, she is free and can determine her own future as a refugee in Canada. 


Rahaf’s new life in Canada 

According to Rahaf, all the effort she made was worth it. Right now, she can live a free life.  She feels very safe in Canada which respects human rights. She promises to dedicate her time to demanding the rights of women around the world, so that they could enjoy their rights just as she does in Canada. 


She has received financial support and advice from the government to help her understand her refugee rights. 


From now on, she wants to be known simply as Ms. Rahaf Mohammed without her family name (she was formerly known as Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun).   


Rahaf was nearly deported while travelling via Thailand to seek her asylum  

Harking back to January 2019, Rahaf had escaped from her family while they were having a vacation in Kuwait. She then bought round-trip tickets to Australia wishing to seek asylum there. As she had disembarked and had checked in into a hotel in the transit area of the Suvannaphum International Airport, some Thai officers had tried to break into her room. Through twitters, she made herself heard to the world letting them know the officers were trying to deport her to her country. And she feared religious persecution and abuse by her family.   




Help from the UN Refugee Agency has eventually arrived and her application for asylum was immediately accepted for review.  She was then granted asylum in Canada and more than willing to take it, as it was faster than trying to apply for asylum in Australia.  


“I want to free myself from oppression 

Rahaf was born and bred in a family strictly adhered to the tenet of Islam in Saudi Arabia where women need permission from their male custodians prior to being able to go outside or to work. Women are forced to adhere to a dress code to the liking of their families. It is justified for women to be subject to harsh punishment imposed by their male custodians 


Her genuine identity stands starkly contrast to her family’s religious views.  She yearns for freedom just like all human beings and want to be treated equally regardless of her sex.   


In Saudi Arabia, the crime of apostasy warrants death penalty. Rahaf’s renunciation of Islam has greatly upset her family. She had been forced to wear hijab and to pray as required by the religious teaching. Her disobedience had yielded her physical abuse.  


For so long, Rahaf had hatched a plan to escape from her family. She had waited until she was 18 years of age. According to laws in the Middle East, one can become a sui juris person when reaching the age. But not in Saudi Arabia. All women there, regardless of their ages, are required to seek permission from their husbands, fathers, or sons prior to travelling abroad.   


“I’m sure that there will be a lot more women running away. I hope my story encourages other women to be brave and free for now." Rahaf said in her first press interview upon her arrival in Canada (January 2019)



Amnesty Advocated for Her Release 


Amnesty International Thailand launched a public statement calling for Thai authorities to not force Rahaf back to Saudi Arabia. This is because she had clearly vowed that she would be subjected to criminal proceeding for non-compliance with the country’s law under which women are under male guardianship. Therefore, forcing her back to Saudi Arabia would lead to human rights abuses against her, which infringes the international customary non-refoulement principle.