Happening Now: Teenager Fleeing an Arranged Marriage in Saudi Arabia Being Held in Bangkok Airport

An 18 year old Saudi woman fled her family and homeland. She obtained an Australian visa — because this could be done online, and as a woman she could not travel to an embassy unescorted (so couldn’t get a visa from anyone else in person). She’s being described as an ex-Muslim who was trying to escape an arranged marriage.

Rahaf Mohammed flew to Bangkok but is being detained. The Saudi government wants her returned. It appears Thai authorities allowed Saudi diplomatic staff access to the airport to stop her. Although the Saudis claim she was detained by the Thai government they are unable to cite any Thai law that she’s alleged to have broken.

Thailand offered the excuse for having allowed this that she was held because she lacked return tickets or funds to support herself but she never attempted to enter Thailand, she was merely connecting. She’s currently being detained under guard in the airport.

If she isn’t allowed to proceed to Australia she wants the opportunity to seek asylum. Clearly a woman who fled her family — who has sparked the interest of the Saudi government for doing so — has a credible fear.

The hash tag #saverahaf is, apparently, trending in Australia.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Sounds like you are not a big fan of Sharia law but we just elected some esteemed members of the House of Representatives who “wiped Israel off the face of the map” and would like to make Sharia law the law of the land in the USA! Must respect other cultures, right?

  2. Based on my admittedly limited experience with asylum/refugee law, it sounds to me like she has a solid claim (and it’s also quite interesting that she’s learned the relevant international treaty and standards). And regardless, this source of shame for her family will likely ensure very harsh and quite possibly fatal treatment if she’s forced to return home.

    What got lost in the shuffle of the publicity over the Saudi government’s horrible murder of Kashoggi in Turkey is how much infringement of rights and outright brutality prevail in Saudi Arabia, particularly re the treatment of women. One argument for letting the Crown Prince have his way is that he’s instituted a few reforms re the status of women – though at the same time he’s imprisoned and brutalized Saudi women’s rights advocates. I wouldn’t have much confidence in his improving the situation of women in the long run, and have even less in his government protecting this poor woman if it forces her to return home.

  3. I can’t imagine what the Saudis could possibly offer the Thai government that would compensate for the shitstorm they would suffer by turning Rahaf Mohammed Mutlaq Alqunun over to the Saudis.

  4. The Saudi Arabians believe they can get away with anything in the light of the pathetic Trump response to the Kashoggi murder.
    And it’s no surprise that Thailand is complicit in this matter as they will cartwheel backwards to accommodate them to try to normalise relationships after the Blue Diamond case.
    How did Saudi officials get into the restricted part of the airport without the connivance of Thai officials?

  5. What has Sharia law got to do with the Saudi girls flight?
    Your knowledge and understanding of the article posted is zero…
    With I be correct in saying your are indeed a retard …

  6. The Thai’s screwed up in my opinion. They should have let her complete her journey and let Australia handle her asylum request. I’m no lawyer but her rights have been violated since she is an adult, has proper documentation and an airline ticket.

    As an aside I don’t quite understand Can’t have it both ways post either.

  7. She is a true asylum seeker who is ready to get protection from any country. Hope she gets asylum & protection and lives a happy life.

  8. She is a true asylum seeker who is ready to get protection from any country. Hope she gets asylum & protection. May she be happy and secure.

  9. @Paolo Not sure what your comment “Trump response to the Kashoggi murder“ means. Kashoggi was not an American citizen, so his response was the exact same as every other world leader. While sad, why should Trump or anyone else worry about a non-citizen?

  10. Someone made a stupid decision. Whatever anyone thought in Thailand it would have been easier for them to let her travel on and not have to deal with this. She could have made her claim in Australia. Now whatever happens Thailand pisses someone off. And scares a lot of people who don’t want to transit through a country where you can’t be sure your ability to get on your next flight will be honored.

  11. So thailand is in the business of seizing people who have a lawful visa to travel on to another country? Thailand should certainly confirm she is legally acceptable in Australia and then let her continue on. This sounds nothing more than a hostage taking at this point. The saudi government is nothing but a bunch of thugs and animals. Tired of them buying off American politicians. They are more of a threat to us than Iran.

  12. I agree, Emily. If Thailand is stopping people from connecting through their airport for specious reasons like this, I would think twice about connecting through there, much less going to Thailand as a final destination. Scary.

  13. Add: Thailand is a serial offender in such matters; they routinely extradite people to countries where they might face torture ( or worse), even when they have legal residential alternatives elsewhere.
    Just a couple of months ago they tried this with another Australian refugee ( with legal residency in Australia) who landed in Thailand for a vacation, only to be arrested and jailed on a spurious warrant from Bahrain.

  14. @Can’t Have It Both Ways, for those who are truly perplexed, is simply another moronic Trumper spewing ignorance and hatred- in this case because a couple of smart female Muslims were elected to what, in spite of Haters like him/her and our president, is still in fact a pluralistic and welcoming society at its core. So you wrote an unrelated story about a Muslim woman, therefore it’s a good opportunity for some unrelated hatemongering and throwing around terms they know nothing about. Don’t worry- only two more years (max, hopefully far less) and their leader and they will disappear back under the rocks they crawled out from.

  15. I understand exactly what was meant by “can’t have it both ways”, and I am not a “Trumper” or a right winger. It seems obvious to me.

    In recent years, the left has aligned themselves with hate-filled sharia-supporting anti-Semitic activists like Linda Sarsour who strongly support arranged marriages like this one in the Muslim world. At the same time, they have poured unlimited derision on brave dissenters from the Muslim world like Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Ali passionately and eloquently advocates for women’s rights in Muslim countries, after having fled a forced arranged marriage just like this poor woman in the article. For this, she has been viciously attacked by many left-wing groups, labelled an anti-Muslim extremist by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and violently opposed by the usual leftists at almost all Universities she has visited. All this for advocating for exactly the freedoms that the woman in this article is appealing for.

    I don’t know where you stand on this Gary, and attributing these left-wing alignments to you may be unfair. But given these alignments, one does not need to be a Trump supporter to suspect that the sudden concern from some on the left for this woman’s plight might have more to do with bashing Trump over Saudi Arabia than a true concern for women’s rights in the Middle East.

  16. No Thai Law broken, Saudi’s intercept her in an airport. This is an outright kidnapping, with heavy overtones of human trafficking.
    If she was actually married, that may be another issue, but even that would be revocable if property rights or offspring are not factors.
    I wonder if Saudi Arabia subscribes to the 1951 Convention and 1967 protocols that she references? And does Thailand?
    Prayers and thoughts go out to Rahaf Mohammed Mutlaq Alqunun.

  17. Trump must live rent free in the brains of some commentators above. This has absolutely nothing to do with Trump.

  18. Assuming the Saudis invalidated her Saudi passport and notified Interpol and/or Thai authorities of the revocation/limitation of her Saudi passport, the Saudi woman would unfortunately lose the ability to use the passport to travel from Thailand to Australia or anywhere else.

    This passport revocation/restriction on the go approach isn’t all that removed from when the US revoked Edward Snowden’s passport. The US was hoping Snowden would be returned to the US due to remote invalidation of his US passport and we had US diplomatic passport holders ready to be used as escort teams from abroad to the US as soon as the US could find an opportune moment to do so — the US just never got that moment to escort him back.

  19. The Muslim women elected to the US Congress are in support of American sharia law, and American sharia law means the US Constitution for them.

    But I’m not sure why a Trump supporter brings them up in this case as they are both critics of Trump and of Saudi Arabia in general.

  20. Christian Krogsted,

    The Thai authorities kiss up to powerful foreign governments frequently and do so by arresting and deporting wanted individuals to the requesting foreign parties when it comes to non-Thai citizens at least.

  21. It seems like a UN refugee representative has got to her and “gave her their word that she is now safe”. I hope that is really the case.

  22. @paulz
    Trump’s response to Kashoggi is only relevant to the extent it makes the Saudis believe they can get away with murder ( literally). There was a high level of disgust in DC ( and everywhere else) regarding his quisling, lame excuses on behalf of Saudi Arabia ( and perhaps even strongest from Republicans).
    Saudi Arabia has contempt for the laws of other countries. A further example of that came to light just recently when they finally admitted they had taken one of their citizens out of the country, by private jet, to avoid his prosecution over a hit/run case in which a 15 year old was killed.
    Whoever coined the phrase “scum of the earth” might well have been referring to The House of Saud.

  23. Paola,

    Trump and his son-in-law were perfectly fine with letting the Saudis get away with murderous use of consular facilities in a NATO country.

  24. Paulz,

    Khashoggi was a US person at the time of his death. He wasn’t a US citizen but he was a US person by way of his legal residence status in the US in 2018.

  25. Am I missing something or is “Can’t have it both ways” missing a few loose screws? What does electing 2 Muslim women to the HOR’s have to do with the article Gary wrote? I doubt that Gary is a fan of Sharia law (like most Americans) but how is he wanting it to have it both ways. Oh wait, I understand..you are brainwashed!

  26. Fernand,

    Some snowflakes — more so the right-wing-nuts and ethno-tribalistic neo-cons — can’t help themselves but to equate all or most Muslims as being one and the same as long as it involves attributing the worst of the lot to most (or the whole) of the lot they hate. Hatred has clouded the judgment of many and drives messed up thinking. VFTW blogs have lots of examples of this meat for the right-wing, anti-Muslim audience to which Gary Leff likes to play at times.

    Speaking of anti-Semtism, whatever happened to that VFTW blog entry about the supposedly anti-Semitic rant from a Jewish passenger? Maybe the ranting lunatic was upset that Netanyahu has been visiting and cozying up with the Saudis and various other Saudi allies in the Arab region? Nope, that wasn’t it, but it was the blog entry.

  27. @GUWonder

    If “American sharia law means the US Constitution for them”, then why do they need the new name? Why not just call it, and support, the US Constitution?

  28. On the one hand, if the story as reported is even partially true this woman is clearly facing a situation that ought legally, and certainly morally, give her a legitimate claim on sanctuary in any western nation.

    On the other hand, countries do have the right to revoke permission-to-travel from their citizens and in this case under Saudi law they may have legally “legitimate” reasons to attempt to do so (reasons which should not be honored).

    And, on the third hand, Thailand has had sensitive relations with Saudi Arabia every since the Blue Diamond affair and an event of this sort needs to be seen in the light of that still-open sore.

  29. Robert,

    Because “sharia” just doesn’t mean what anti-Muslim scaremongers believe it to mean. It means justice, law or religion depending on the context. American sharia is American law for those who want the US Constitution to be just that. 😉

  30. @ Can’t have it both ways

    You’re an absolute idiot. I know this particular website seems to attract a bunch of armchair political bigots for some reason, and that is what it is, but this comment in particular is a special shade of stupid.

  31. The Thai gov’t BETTER NOT send her back…. she would undoubtedly be MURDERED. That is islam… PURE EVIL!

  32. @Reed Johnson
    Thank for an intelligent and well presented counter point. I lived and worked in Saudi Arabia (Saudia, long time ago L-1011) and perhaps women have more privileges, not rights, now than 40 years ago but I sincerely doubt it. You probably won’t convince many liberals that their view may be WOXOF, but thank you for supporting logic, and not emotion, with your response.
    Inside the city limits, Austin is very much a blue dot in the red sea of Texas. Selective understanding of conservative points of view is very prevalent with many including limousine liberals residing within the city.

  33. Reed Johnson said:
    and I am not a “Trumper” or a right winger

    Then proceeds to spew the worst kind of right wing misinformation.

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