This Saudi Teen Whose Story Has Gone Viral Hopes Twitter Will Save Her Life
Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun is running away to Australia from her abusive family, hoping Twitter updates will keep her safe on her journey.
18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun from Saudi Arabia was travelling to seek asylum in Australia when she was stopped by immigration officials in Thailand who threatened to deport her back there. In a plea for help, she posted the truth about her situation on Twitter: she is on the run from her abusive family back home who she thinks will kill her if she returns. As the events in Thailand unfolded, her story went viral.
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According to Rahaf, when she was stopped in Bangkok the Saudi Arabian Embassy got involved and her passport was seized. She claimed the embassy said they would even kidnap her to get her back to the Middle East. Fearing deportation would lead to her death, Rahaf locked herself inside her hotel room, refusing to open the door to officials and instead appealing to everyone on social media to help save her. She asked for UN protection.
The hashtag #SaveRahaf started trending as the public and human rights organisations followed her story, trying to help and encourage her. Her Twitter page was constantly updated with new information.
Rahaf said that her family back home had subjected her to threats, beatings and once an imprisonment in a room for six months for having cut her hair. Running away was a brave and bold move, not least because in Saudi Arabia there is a male guardianship system that means women have to seek approval from male relatives when making decisions like whether to travel (it’s patriarchal AF).
The good news is that Rahaf has been showing Saudi women that they deserve freedom and autonomy, and the whole thing has been highlighting how unjust it is that women there aren't allowed to make their own decisions, even when trying to protect themselves. It has created a bit of a movement.
Whether social media is a more harmful or positive influence on us is always being debated, but no-one can debate how huge its influence can be. In this case, Rahaf’s hoping Twitter will save her life.