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Australians hold topless protest in support of Saudi runaway

AP  |  Sydney 

Four women held a topless protest in on Thursday to support runaway Saudi woman Alqunun, as began considering her bid to settle in the country as a refugee.

was on Wednesday deemed a refugee by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, after being detained in en route to

The 18-year-old publicised her case via after barricading herself in her hotel room, saying she feared for her safety if sent back to her family in

In downtown on Thursday morning, four women, dressed only in jeans and calling themselves the Secret Sisterhood, protested outside the building housing the Saudi Consulate, calling on to grant residency.

With "Secret Sisterhood" written on their backs, the women held placards with messages including "Let her in," ''Rahaf Sisterhood Hero" and "All women free + safe." founder said the protest was held to urge the to recognise Alqunun's plight, and that of oppressed women everywhere.

"We are here to encourage them to let her in," Love said.

"She's been recognised by the UN as a refugee so we believe the needs to step up, recognise her plight and recognise what she's gone through, and she could be an icon for the rest of the world that women shouldn't be oppressed and they should be fleeing countries that they are oppressed in."

"We decided to go topless because we believe all women should be able to express themselves freely and safely and we wanted to send a message to Rahaf that we can actually do that in Australia, that women can actually be free and safe," Love said.

has also set up a GoFundMe account, which had raised USD 2,290 dollars for by Thursday morning.

Alqunun's case has highlighted the cause of women's rights in

Several female Saudis fleeing abuse by their families have been caught trying to seek asylum abroad in recent years and returned home.

Human rights activists say many more similar cases will have gone unreported.

After mounting a campaign for assistance on from her airport hotel, Alqunun was allowed to temporarily stay in under the care of the UN refugee agency, which ruled her claim for asylum valid and referred her case to Australia.

Following that decision, said it would "consider this referral in the usual way, as it does with all UNHCR referrals."

Alqunun's father arrived in Bangkok on Tuesday, but his daughter refused to meet with him.

chief said the father whose name has not been released denied physically abusing Alqunun or trying to force her into an arranged marriage, which were among the reasons she gave for her flight.

Surachate said Alqunun's father wanted his daughter back but respected her decision.

Surachate described the father as being a in

"He has 10 children. He said the daughter might feel neglected sometimes," Surachate said.

"But he didn't go into detail."

Before the UN agency's decision to refer her case to Australia, the country's said there would be no "special treatment" for her.

However, Greg Hunt, also speaking before the UN's decision, said: "If she is found to be a refugee, then we will give very, very, very serious consideration to a humanitarian visa.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, January 10 2019. 09:10 IST