UNHCR tries to help Saudi woman who eloped to Yemen: source

SANAA Sun Nov 24, 2013 10:55am EST

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SANAA (Reuters) - The U.N. has called for a Saudi woman to be given asylum in Yemen to avoid being deported back to Saudi Arabia, after she eloped with a Yemeni man, a U.N. official said on Sunday

In October, Huda al-Niran, 22, crossed into Yemen after her family refused to allow her to marry Arafat Radfan, a Yemeni she had met while he was working at a mobile telephone shop in Saudi Arabia.

Yemeni authorities detained the woman for entering the country illegally pending her trial, which is expected to result in her being deported back to Saudi Arabia.

An official at the UNHCR office in Sanaa told Reuters on condition of anonymity the UN agency would help Niran obtain "a humanitarian asylum".

"If Yemeni authorities do not agree to grant her the right of asylum, the UNHCR will look for another country to host her," the UN official said.

Yemeni government officials could not immediately be reached for a comment.

On Sunday, a Yemeni court postponed issuing a ruling in her case until December 1, Kadi said, as hundreds of people gathered outside the courtroom chanting: "Love before borders and citizenship."

Last week Human Rights Watch called on Yemeni authorities not to deport Niran "without considering her claim that the Saudi government will not protect her against life-threatening family violence".

Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and a U.S. ally, is an absolute monarchy that follows Sunni Islam's strict Wahhabi school. It forbids women to travel abroad, open a bank account or work without permission from a male relative.

A landmark domestic violence law was introduced this year, but activists have called it toothless because judges may decide a man is within his rights to beat his wife, daughter or sister if he disapproves of her behavior.

(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; writing by Rania El Gamal; editing by Sami Aboudi and Andrew Roche)

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