By Emily Drooby
A Saudi teenager has been recognized as a refugee by the United Nations after her story gained international attention.
18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, was attempting to pass through Bangkok Airport after a flight from Kuwait.
In a social media video, Alqunun can be heard saying, “I’m not leaving my room until I see UNHCR, I want asylum.”
The teen shown here with member of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, told the organization, also known as UNHCR, she was stopped and had her passport taken from her.
Immigration officials then attempted to deport the teen back to the Middle East. That’s when Alqunun barricaded herself in a Bangkok Airport hotel room.
The UNHCR released a statement saying she told them, quote; “She claimed that she fled her family fearing for her life and had been planning to head to Australia where she hoped to seek asylum.”
Media reports say the family issues stemmed from the teen renouncing Islam.
While inside her hotel room, Alqunun and several friends, helped her use Twitter to communicate. In tweets she wrote about fear, officially announced she was seeking refugee status, and begged for help from the UN.
While the UNHCR says generally it’s the states responsibility to determine the status of asylum-seekers, occasionally they will step in and help, “where states are unable or unwilling”.
UNHCR was eventually given access to Alqunun, who left her hotel under their protection.
The UN gave Alqunun refugee status but that doesn’t mean she’s safe; another country still has to agree to take her in. According to the BBC and NBC, her case has been referred to Australia, but has not yet been approved.