Rahaf Mohammed, the 20-year-old fleeing Saudi woman trapped in Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, went viral on the internet this weekend with a string of desperate tweets and videos begging for aide and asylum.
A young woman who chose to leave Islam, Rahaf’s bold escape attempt came with declarations of self-determination:
I am 20 years old and I should be able to live alone, freely, independent of anyone who does not respect my dignity and who doesn’t respect me as a woman.
I have proof of my family’s violence, and my lawyer will raise a case against them if they don’t stop trying to repatriate me.
I am giving my family 48 hours – either stop or I will publish everything that will incriminate them.
I am real, I exist, I am still breathing, but I am not sure I can continue or that I can stay alive unless the Saudi embassy stops pursuing me.
Rahaf has been stranded at Bangkok airport since Saturday, January 6th, 2018. Rahaf claims Thai immigration officials stopped her at the request of the Saudi government, a claim that both Thai and Saudi officials deny. Rahaf claims her passport was confiscated by a Saudi official and that four Saudi men have been guarded her room to ensure she doesn’t leave.
By late Sunday evening (January 6), Rahaf was still barricaded in her room with attempts to get her on a flight growing more intense. Just hours before, she transferred (or shared) her Twitter account to her friend to help ensure she was not silenced.
Clarion Project was in brief contact with Rahaf for an interview on Sunday afternoon, before her situation grew more dire. Rahaf Mohammed, is yet another young Saudi women trapped and is desperate for a lifeline only strangers can provide at this hour.
Young Saudi women trying to escape Saudi Arabia has trended repeatedly as headlines, often with grizzly or murky endings:
- Last year, the bodies of two Saudi sisters were found bound together in New York’s Hudson River as they tried to evade a return back home.
- In 2017, Dina Ali Lasloom tried to escape a forced marriage and was held at a Manila airport until her uncles arrived. She was beaten and dragged back to Riyadh with her mouth taped shut and her arms and legs bound. She hasn’t been heard from since.
- Another regional example is that of Dubai princess Sheikha Latifa who commandeered a boat to escape and was dragged back home last year. Photos of her surfaced recently in what seemed like a PR stunt showcasing a shadow of the once vibrant princess.
One after another, stories of a Saudi woman trapped begs the question of how authentic the kingdom’s reforms have been if it cannot allow for the free departure of women choosing another home, another ideology, and another lifestyle.
Editor’s Note: On Monday, January 7, 2019, Rahaf Mohammed came under the protection of UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees), was able to retrieve her passport and was offered asylum in Canada where she arrived safely on January 11, 2019.