‘Brave new Cana­dian’ wel­comed as Saudi teen lands in T.O.

Calgary Sun - - NEWS -

A Saudi teen de­scribed as a “brave new Cana­dian” by an of­fi­cial from the gov­ern­ment that granted her refugee sta­tus as she fled her al­legedly abu­sive fam­ily is en route to her new home, Canada’s For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter said Satur­day.

Chrys­tia Free­land ap­peared along­side 18-year-old Ra­haf Mo­hammed Alqu­nun with her arm around the teen as she ap­peared briefly at Toronto’s Pear­son In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

Alqu­nun, fresh off a flight from Seoul, South Ko­rea, and sport­ing a grey “Canada” hoodie and a blue hat em­blazened with the logo of the or­ga­ni­za­tion that ar­ranged her rest­tle­ment, smiled and waved at a group of re­porters, but of­fered no com­ment on her ar­rival.

Free­land, how­ever, heaped praise on the young woman who shot to fame through her social me­dia cam­paign to flee her fam­ily.

“It was a plea­sure for me this morn­ing to wel­come to her new home a very brave new Cana­dian,” Free­land said. “... she wanted Cana­di­ans to see that she’s here, that she’s well, and that she’s very, very happy to be in her new home, although she did com­ment to me about the cold.”

“It does get warmer,” Free­land said she told her.

She was off to get win­ter clothes, said Mario Calla, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of COSTI Im­mi­grant Ser­vices, which is help­ing her set­tle in tem­po­rary hous­ing and ap­ply­ing for a health card.

Calla said Alqu­nun has friends in Toronto that she will be meet­ing up with this week­end.

Alqu­nun gained in­ter­na­tional promi­nence when she fled her fam­ily last week while vis­it­ing Kuwait and flew to Bangkok, where she bar­ri­caded her­self in an air­port hotel and launched a Twit­ter cam­paign out­lin­ing al­le­ga­tions of abuse against her rel­a­tives.

Alqu­nun said her father phys­i­cally abused her and tried to force her into an ar­ranged mar­riage.

Her father, who ar­rived in Bangkok not long be­fore she left, has de­nied those al­le­ga­tions.

“I’m the girl who ran away to Thai­land. I’m now in real dan­ger be­cause the Saudi Em­bassy is try­ing to force me to re­turn,” said an English trans­la­tion of one of her first posts to Twit­ter. Alqu­nun also wrote that she was afraid and that her fam­ily would kill her if she were re­turned home.

The Twit­ter hash­tag #SaveRa­haf en­sued, and a pho­to­graph of her be­hind a door bar­ri­caded with a mat­tress was seen around the world.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau an­nounced Fri­day that the United Na­tions

High Com­mis­sion­ner for Refugees asked the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to al­low Alqu­nun to set­tle in Canada, and Ot­tawa agreed.

“That is some­thing that we are pleased to do be­cause Canada is a coun­try that un­der­stands how im­por­tant it is to stand up for hu­man rights, to stand up for women’s rights around the world,” Trudeau said.

CHRIS YOUNG/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Saudi teenager Ra­haf Mo­hammed Alqu­nun is wel­comed by MP Chrys­tia Free­land at Toronto Pear­son air­port yes­ter­day.

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