Saudi teen deletes Twitter account after death threats as wait for asylum continues

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Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun wait for asylum continues as she takes a step back from social media.


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A Saudi teenager who fled to Thailand saying she feared her family would kill her deleted her Twitter account on Friday after getting death threats, a friend said, while she awaits a decision on where she might be granted asylum.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, 18, arrived in Thailand on Saturday and was initially denied entry.

She soon started posting messages on Twitter from the transit area of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport saying she had “escaped Kuwait” and her life would be in danger if forced to return to Saudi Arabia.

Within hours, a campaign sprang up dubbed #SaveRahaf, spread on Twitter by a loose network of activists.

Thai authorities allowed her to enter the country on Monday and the UN refugee agency later referred her case to Australia for consideration for refugee resettlement.

Around mid-day on Friday, her Twitter account, @rahaf84427714, went offline after she posted that she had “bad and good news!”

The account reappeared briefly about an hour later but went offline again within minutes.

Australia urged to clarify Saudi woman’s visa status.

A Twitter user known as Nourah, whom Qunun has referred to as a friend, tweeted that Qunun “received death threats and for this reason she closed her Twitter account”. 

Qunun, who is staying in Bangkok at an undisclosed location and was not available for comment, had earlier said on Twitter she had been receiving death threats from a relative on the social media platform.

Sophie McNeill, an Australia Broadcast Corp. journalist who has had direct contact with Qunun, said the teenager was “safe and fine” but was taking a short break from Twitter.

“She’s just been receiving a lot of death threats,” McNeill said on Twitter.

Her retreat from social media comes amid conflicting reports that Australia and Canada had granted the teenager asylum.  

The Daily Mail has reported that she was happy to “start a new life” in Australia and that she had been provided with an apartment for three months, although she didn’t know where it would be.

The text message exchange between SBS News and Rahaf.

The text message exchange between SBS News and Rahaf.

A spokesperson for Foreign Minister Marise Payne has however rejected the claim she is coming to Australia.

The Australian, meanwhile is reporting the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees withdrew its referral to Australia to take Ms Alqunun as a refugee, meaning the teen is “almost certainly” headed for Canada.

Rahaf has told SBS News via a text message that she is “still in Thailand” in response to a question over media reports she had been granted asylum.

“Nothing yet about my Visa,” she said.

The Department of Home Affairs has been approached for comment.

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