Letter in support of Rahaf Mohammed al Qunun’s claim for asylum and protection from the UN refugee agency.
I am writing in support of Rahaf’s claim for asylum in Thailand on behalf of the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees (IFIR). IFIR has experience representing many female clients who have had to run away from threats from their family and fear of honour crime. In our experience Rahaf’s fear of being murdered by her family for bringing shame on them by running away is sadly correct.
Unfortunately forced marriage followed by domestic violence are common place in Middle Eastern Islamic culture. Women are looked upon as property of the family and have no individual rights. If they try and break away from their families as Ms Rahaf has done they are thought to have brought dishonour and shame on their family, the punishment for this is humiliation, torture and murder.
Saudi Arabia is a country that does not respect the Human Rights of its citizens it was recently complicit in the murder of a leading journalist Khashoggi and treats women as second class citizens. Women have only recently been allowed to drive and cannot travel without the permission of a male relative. From childhood through to adulthood, every Saudi woman passes from the control of one legal guardian to another, a male relative whose decisions or whims can determine the course of her life. Legal guardians are often a woman’s father or husband, but can also be a brother or her own son. If women are caught running away, they can be pressured to return home or placed in shelters where often the only way out is to escape again. Others are jailed for violating so-called obedience laws and only a male guardian can sign for their release. Ms Rahaf’s father alleging that she is suffering from mental health issues and then offering no proof of this claim is symptomatic of Saudi’s attitude to women.
IFIR has had many clients in the past who have been murdered in the name of honour and or been subjected to domestic violence and mistreatment. We also refer you to Amnesty International’s report, ‘Hope and Fear: Human Rights in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq’, which talks of violence and discrimination against women and the experience of the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organization and the Kurdish and Middle Eastern Women’s Organization.
For all of the above reasons the IFIR fears Ms Rahaf’s life will be in danger if she returned to Saudi Arabia. IFIR requests that the Government in Thailand review the Ms Rahaf’s case cooperates with the UN refugee agency and either grants her indefinite leave to remain or help her to find safety in a third country.
If you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Secretary of International Federation of Iraqi Refugees-IFIR
Main Branch– London: