Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun's rescue proves social media can change how the world is governed and raise global awareness

The teen, who fled her family and is now in Thailand, received thousands of messages of support that probably saved her life

Susan Ramsay |

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Rahaf Mohammed al-Qanun (centre) barricaded herself inside a Bangkok airport hotel room to prevent Thai immigration officials putting her on a flight to Kuwait.

It’s you who saved her life, the Saudi teen’s friend tells the Twitterverse. Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun made headlines over the weekend when she took a flight from Kuwait to Bangkok to escape her Saudi Arabian father and brother who she says abused her. She said her passport was taken away and she was going to be deported to Kuwait and back to her family.

Somehow, she managed to barricade herself into a Bangkok airport hotel room and used her phone to beg the world for help.

Across the world, a smart teen secretly recorded her father, facing court charges for allegedly assaulting her, coaching her on what to say during her testimony – basically denying everything she had said happened.

Also in the US, a black teen recorded his encounter with a restaurant manager that got the man suspended.

UPDATED: Saudi teen Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun is a legitimate refugee, says UNHCR

Earlier last year, Florida student David Hogg used his phone to broadcast a terrible, live-shooting attack on his school that left 17 people dead. Then the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting used the internet to gain support that culminated in a march across the world to protest against lax gun control laws in the US.

It is easy for people to think that the world is getting “worse”. That human rights are getting worse. There is more violence, more injustice and more crime than ever before.

This is simply not true.

Five things you need to know about Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, the Saudi teen fleeing her family

What is true is that we are being made more aware of what is going on in other places. The media today has more access to information than ever before, and people involved in stories realise that they no longer have to go through official channels to be heard. Take US President Donald Trump, for example. Good or bad, he has a direct way to share his ideas with a global audience, rather than have it filtered through several layers of minders.

Rahaf was, we now know, with a journalist when she was in that hotel room, when officials were trying to persuade her that she had no choice but to return to Kuwait. But that journalist had hooked up with her through the internet.

Suddenly it is not so easy for governments to hide their sins and to spin stories to fit their own narrative. Millions of people are watching, commenting, and acting when they see wrongdoing. It gives officials pause for thought. It changes minds.

Face Off: Does social media bring people closer together?

It would be pretty safe to assume that had it not been for this global attention, Rahaf would, by now, be in prison in Saudi Arabia. Instead the Thai government took notice and changed course.

To sum up the power of digital communication, one Saudi official can be heard commenting on the situation, and was widely translated by the Twitterverse as saying: “They took her passport away, they should have taken her phone away”.

Yes, teens have more power now than ever before, and they are using it to change the world for good.

Edited by M. J. Premaratne and Charlotte Ames-Ettridge