Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, for all intents and purposes, is a refugee. As a young woman from Saudi Arabia, her rights are largely limited to what her male family members permit, and if Alqunun’s assertions are true, she’s the victim of violent, gender-based persecution.
Alqunun, whose fate in Bangkok hangs in the balance after she fled her family during a trip in Kuwait, alleges that her family beats her and once kept her locked up for six months after she got a haircut they disapproved of. Given Saudi laws forbid females from traveling without a male guardian and punish crimes such as parental disobedience and harming the kingdom’s reputation, Alqunun faces a real and imminent risk of death, either at the hands of the Saudi government or of her own family, if Thailand follows through on deporting her back to the country.
The facts overwhelmingly support Alqunun’s bid for refugee status. On top of being a member of a group persecuted for innate personal characteristics, she’s already at ample risk of personal persecution. She’s a refugee, and feminist nations of the world owe her their support.
At first the Thai government tried to force Alqunun to fly back to Saudi Arabia, but now the they have finally allowed Alqunun access to members of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, failing to force Alqunun on a flight back to Saudi Arabia. Now the Thai government has offered Alqunun safety, for now, and reversed its decision to deport her altogether. But Alqunun needs a longer-term place of asylum.
The United States can and should offer her protection. Alqunun named the U.S. along with Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom in her desperate online plea to seek asylum from a country where she would be a person instead of property. We finally have Muslim women in Congress, one of whom came to this country as a refugee herself. They, along with every other feminist politician in the country, ought to call to bring Alqunun to freedom and safety. Her life depends on it.