Barricaded in an airport hotel room in Bangkok on January 5th, her passport seized by Saudi authorities, 18-year-old Saudi teen Rahaf al-Qunun desperately wrote her first-ever tweet in Arabic, “I’m the girl who ran away to Thailand. I’m now in real danger because the Saudi embassy is trying to force me to return. I’m afraid. My family will kill me.”
Upon reading this, my first thought was, “Almost any 18 year old would say my family would kill me if I broke their rules.” But that was before I found out Rahaf’s fear was justified, because a Saudi woman guilty of apostasy (denouncing her religion) faces certain death by stoning.
Her plea for help was translated into English by Egyptian-American journalist and activist Mona Eltahawy, who describes herself as “a secular, radical feminist Muslim.” Eloquent red-headed Mona fights for the autonomy, security, and dignity of Muslim women through her news articles and activist actions.
An author activist myself, I admire all those who stand up and speak out for just causes. Mona, a fervent, fiery writer and speaker, particularly inspires me. She protests the injustices perpetuated against those Muslims forced to experience oppression, violence, and living in fear. You can check out her powerful Twitter feed.
Mona’s Twitter hashtag #SaveRahaf reached hundreds of thousands of this popular activist’s followers. These tweets were instrumental in attracting the attention of Human Rights Watch and eventually Phil Robertson, its Bangkok-based Asia deputy director. On the evening of January 5th, he sent this out:
“18 year old Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed Al-Qunun is being held at #Bangkok airport, her passport confiscated by #SaudiArabia which prevented her from continuing to #Australia. She wants to seek asylum, fears she will be killed if forced back to #Riyadh. Needs access to #UNHCR!”Twitter, Phil Robertson
What happens after this is intense and amazing, and proves once again that the pen can be mightier than the sword (especially on social media, and more especially on Twitter) .
Two resources on Twitter contacts for refugees:
- Popular hashtags for refugees on Twitter and Instagram
- How to contact the USA for UNHCR verified Twitter account @UNRefugeeAgency
An inspiring article and video about the 2018 World Report about Human Rights successes and failures, and hopes for the future:
At the end of each month, we bloggers are given the opportunity to post good news stories. Why do we do it? To offer an antidote to the tidal wave of bad news in the news feeds nowadays. I sincerely hope this post lifts your spirits as much as reading about these inspirational folks lifted mine.
My dedicated and talented co-hosts for this month are: Inderpreet Uppal, Sylvia Stein, Shilpa Garg, Simon Falk, Damyanti Biswas. Please check out their blog posts and say hello.