The BBC was forced to delete a tweet after it asked its followers to debate whether they 'respected' the decision of a Saudi Arabian refugee who was fleeing murder threats.
BBC Asian Network asked its followers to debate the choices of 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, who took to Twitter on Monday to plead for her life after Saudi officials and Thai immigration officials stopped her in Bangkok and confiscated her passport. She was on her way to Australia, escaping her family who she claimed would kill her for disobeying them.
Ms al-Qunun was given refugee status by the United Nations office for Refugees (UNHCR) because of the threats on her life and Australia is now deciding whether to grant her request for asylum
Shortly after her official refugee status was decided, the BBC radio station tweeted: "18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun fled Saudi Arabia as she said her family would kill her for choosing to leave Islam - do you respect her decision?"
This was met with a furious response by activists and MPs.
The now deleted tweet in question can be found here: One's faith is a matter between themselves and God. What would have been a better question is: How can we better support women and girls who want to escape from oppressive, controlling & abusive lives?' ���� pic.twitter.com/AORHNx03ls
— aisha ali-khan (@aak1880) January 9, 2019
Dr ZubaidaHaque, the deputy director of a race equality think tank, tweeted: "Why the hell are @bbcasiannetwork dedicating a prog on whether a female victim has the right to leave the threat of violence in her home and country? Why question the victim's motive??
"Why not challenge honour-based violence and Saudi misogynist & apostate laws? #RahafMohammed".
RadhikaHanda, a barrister and campaigner, tweeted: "How disappointing, @bbcasiannetwork, you are basically asking 'is honour based violence against women ok?' undoing all the hard work done by BME women’s groups and other human rights orgs. Shame on you."
Labour MP Wes Streeting added: "How is this tweet still online??? Has someone had a lobotomy?"
In response, the BBC network deleted the tweet and explained: "We have deleted the tweet about our earlier discussion on Rahuf al-Qunun.
"The question we asked on air 'How do you feel about the 18 year old Saudi woman's decision to leave her family and religion?' was aimed at our listeners who had faced similar dilemmas in their own life regarding family and religion. We received several calls from people empathising with Miss al-Qunun’s situation. We are sorry the original wording about 'respecting her decision' was open to misinterpretation".
The network has previously had to delete other controversial tweets after outcry, including one which asked whether people should be "punished" for blasphemy.