Runaway Saudi teen settles in Canada after being granted asylum

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Runaway Saudi teen settles in Canada after being granted asylum
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AFP / Lars Hagberg
Canadian Minister for International Affairs Chrystia Freeland (R) stated Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, is “very, very completely satisfied” to be in Canada which gave her asylum after she fled her Saudi homeland

A “very, very completely satisfied” Saudi teenager who triggered a sensation by defying her household and looking for asylum overseas was welcomed with open arms in Toronto Saturday on the finish of a dramatic however exhausting worldwide odyssey.

International Minister Chrystia Freeland greeted Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun after she landed in Toronto, carrying a skirt, a grey hoodie emblazoned in pink with the phrase “CANADA” and a blue cap with the brand of the United Nations Excessive Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Smiling broadly, the 18-year-old posed for photographers with Freeland at her aspect, however made no assertion.

Later, she tweeted a video of her arrival, with the remark: “I like Canada I like you all.”

Freeland stated Qunun “wished Canadians to see that she’s right here, that she’s effectively and that she may be very, very completely satisfied to be in her new residence.”

“She had a reasonably lengthy journey and is exhausted and prefers to not take questions for the second,” the diplomatic chief added, with an arm round Qunun’s shoulder.

She was taken in by Toronto-based refugee group Costi, a spokeswoman stated.

Shortly after her arrival, Qunun went purchasing for some heat garments in central Ontario, based on the spokesman, noting {the teenager} is aware of a number of folks there and contacted them.

Within the coming days, Costi representatives will assist her open a checking account and carry out numerous administrative duties earlier than discovering her a everlasting residence.

Within the meantime, she is staying in a facility continually beneath guard. Costi has advisable Qunun that she keep away from sharing her tackle.

– A path of tweets –

The arrival in Canada marks the epilogue of a global saga.

Qunun captured the world’s consideration with a path of Twitter posts that ignited a #SaveRahaf motion as she fled what she stated was bodily and psychological abuse from her household in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia.

Rights teams additionally stated she had renounced Islam, risking prosecution in Saudi Arabia. Her household has denied the abuse allegations.

The publicity thwarted an try and deport her to Saudi Arabia after she arrived in Bangkok on a flight from Kuwait every week in the past, with Thai authorities as an alternative turning her over to the UN’s refugee company.

Then on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the shock announcement that Canada would welcome her.

Freeland stated that in granting Qunun asylum, Canada was “standing up for human rights around the globe, and we consider very strongly that girls’s rights are human rights.”

The transfer is certain to additional pressure Canada’s relations with the dominion. Ties went sideways final August over Ottawa’s rights criticism of Saudi Arabia, prompting Riyadh to expel the Canadian ambassador and sever all commerce and funding ties in protest.

Canada additionally sparked fury in Riyadh by demanding the “fast launch” of jailed rights campaigners, together with Samar Badawi, the sister of jailed blogger Raif Badawi, whose household lives in Quebec.

Qunun’s try and flee Saudi Arabia was embraced by rights teams as a beacon of defiance in opposition to repression.

-‘Precarious state of affairs’-

AFP / Lars Hagberg
Qunun stated she fled bodily and psychological abuse from her household within the conservative kingdom

“Ms al-Qunun’s plight has captured the world’s consideration over the previous few days, offering a glimpse into the precarious state of affairs of hundreds of thousands of refugees worldwide,” stated Filippo Grandi, the UN Excessive Commissioner for Refugees.

“Refugee safety at this time is usually beneath risk and can’t all the time be assured, however on this occasion worldwide refugee regulation and overriding values of humanity have prevailed.”

Raif Badawi’s spouse Ensaf Haidar additionally praised Canada, calling Freeland on Twitter “the true hero” behind efforts to stop Qunun’s repatriation to Saudi Arabia.

Qunun first stated she was aiming for Australia. However late Friday, Thailand’s immigration police chief Surachate Hakparn stated a smiling and cheerful Rahaf was certain for Toronto.

“The one nation that actually helped me in the long run was Canada,” Qunun stated after arriving in Toronto. “The remainder had been afraid and cowards.”

In a tweet, the UNHCR stated: “We welcome Rahaf’s arrival in Canada and the Canadian Authorities’s determination to offer safety and a long-term answer for her there as a resettled refugee.”

– Loss of life threats –

Thai Immigration Bureau/AFP/File / Handout
Qunun (C) is escorted by a Thai immigration officer (R) and UN refugee company officers in Bangkok on January 7, 2019

On Friday, Qunun posted a cryptic tweet on her profile saying, “I’ve some excellent news and a few dangerous information.” Her account was deactivated shortly afterward in response to dying threats she had confronted, her pals stated.

However she was again on-line later within the day, tweeting: “I want to thanks folks for supporting me and saving my life. Really I’ve by no means dreamed of this love and assist.”

She opened and commenced utilizing a brand new Twitter deal with on Friday, citing the threats.

Qunun’s use of Twitter noticed her amass tens of 1000’s of followers inside every week, highlighting her plight at a time when Saudi Arabia’s human rights report is beneath heavy scrutiny following the homicide of journalist Jamal Khashoggi final 12 months.

Her deployment of social media allowed her to keep away from the destiny of numerous different refugees who’re quietly despatched again residence or left to languish in Bangkok detention facilities.

She refused to see her father, who traveled to Thailand and expressed opposition to her resettlement.



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