Saudi woman flee­ing abuse wins asy­lum in Canada

National Post (National Edition) - - CANADA - Mike BlanCh­field

OT­TAWA • Canada granted asy­lum on Fri­day to the Saudi woman who gained the world’s at­ten­tion on so­cial me­dia as she fled an abu­sive fam­ily by es­cap­ing to Thailand.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau an­nounced that Canada would ac­cept 18-year-old Ra­haf Mo­hammed Alqu­nun as a refugee after she was stopped last Saturday at Bangkok air­port by im­mi­gra­tion po­lice.

Po­lice de­nied her en­try and seized her pass­port, while her brother and fa­ther trav­elled to Thailand to take her back to Saudi Ara­bia.

Alqu­nun fled from her fam­ily while on hol­i­day in Kuwait. Alqu­nun’s fa­ther and brother had de­nied any al­le­ga­tions of abuse,

Trudeau brushed aside sug­ges­tions that the move might com­pli­cate al­ready strained re­la­tions with Saudi Ara­bia, while the or­ga­ni­za­tion Hu­man Rights Watch praised Canada for act­ing swiftly to pro­vide sanc­tu­ary to a vul­ner­a­ble young woman.

“The story ends to­day,” said the head of Thailand’s im­mi­gra­tion bureau, Su­rachate Hak­parn. “Ms. Ra­haf is go­ing to Canada as she wishes”

He said Alqu­nun left Thailand on a flight en route to Toronto on Fri­day night. She was in good health and spir­its, he said, and had a “smil­ing face.”

Alqu­nun bar­ri­caded her­self in an air­port ho­tel room and launched a Twit­ter cam­paign that drew global at­ten­tion to her case. Cana­dian diplomats in the Thai cap­i­tal were seized with her plight im­me­di­ately, and though Alqu­nun orig­i­nally said she wanted to reach Aus­tralia, it be­came clear in the past week that Canada rep­re­sented her quick­est path to free­dom.

Trudeau an­nounced in Regina that the United Na­tions High Com­mis­sion for Refugees asked Canada to take Alqu­nun as a refugee, and Canada agreed. Alqu­nun’s case once again shone a spot­light on the state of women’s rights in Saudi Ara­bia.

Many Saudi women flee­ing abuse by their fam­i­lies have been caught try­ing to seek asy­lum abroad in re­cent years and re­turned home.

Phil Robert­son, the deputy direc­tor of Hu­man Rights Watch’s Asia di­vi­sion, said: “There was the un­cer­tain as­pect of her fa­ther and her brother — the peo­ple she feared most — still be­ing here, still be­ing in Bangkok and still be­ing present. There was a great deal of worry about that. That some­thing might hap­pen.

“That was ac­tu­ally one of the rea­sons why the orig­i­nal idea that she might be go­ing to Aus­tralia was switched to go to Canada, be­cause Canada was pre­pared to act much quicker and re­ally make this hap­pen.”

Ra­haf Mo­hammed Alqu­nun

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.