‘I’m proud of Canada’ says wife of Saudi pris­oner

Re­la­tions are not good any­how, says ex­pert, so Canada’s res­cue of Saudi teen not an is­sue

The Niagara Falls Review - - Canada & World - ROX­ANNE OCAMPO

The Cana­dian wife of im­pris­oned Saudi blog­ger Raif Badawi said she isn’t wor­ried Ot­tawa’s de­ci­sion to take in teen refugee Ra­haf Mo­hammed Alqu­nun will hurt her hus­band’s case, de­spite spec­u­la­tion that the in­ci­dent could fur­ther strain Canada-Saudi re­la­tions.

En­saf Haidar said the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment did the right thing in grant­ing refugee sta­tus to the 18-year-old woman who drew global at­ten­tion after flee­ing her al­legedly abu­sive fam­ily.

“I’m happy for her,” Haidar said in a phone in­ter­view.

“I’m very proud of Canada, too. That’s what a demo­cratic coun­try is.”

Haidar, who lives in Que­bec with her three chil­dren, said she didn’t be­lieve Canada’s ac­cep­tance of Alqu­nun would hurt her hus­band’s chances of re­lease, be­cause the two cases are “very dif­fer­ent.”

Alqu­nun landed in Toronto on Satur­day.

She gained in­ter­na­tional promi­nence after she fled her fam­ily on a trip to 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.

The young woman landed in Canada on what was a sym­bolic week for Badawi, who was ar­rested on June 17, 2012, and was later sen­tenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for his crit­i­cism of Saudi cler­ics.

Sun­day was the blog­ger’s 35th birth­day, and last week marked three years since he re­ceived 50 lashes in Jan­uary 2015 dur­ing a pub­lic flog­ging.

He is not be­lieved to have re­ceived any more cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment since then.

Some have sug­gested Canada’s de­ci­sion to ac­cept Alqu­nun could heighten ten­sions that peaked over the sum­mer when Saudi Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man ex­pelled Canada’s am­bas­sador and with­drew his own en­voy after Canada’s for­eign af­fairs min­is­ter used Twit­ter to call for the re­lease of ar­rested women’s rights ac­tivists.

But other ex­perts, such as Univer­sity of Water­loo pro­fes­sor Bessma Mo­mani, have said the re­la­tion­ship with the Saudi gov­ern­ment has de­te­ri­o­rated to the point where the de­ci­sion to ac­cept Alqu­nun no longer poses much risk.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau has said Canada would stand up for hu­man rights re­gard­less of diplo­matic con­se­quences.

Haidar said she hasn’t met Alqu­nun, but she’s fol­lowed her case on so­cial me­dia and ad­vo­cated for Canada to ac­cept her.

Haidar is also one of three peo­ple who started a GoFundMe page to help raise money to help Alqu­nun be­gin her new life.

Haidar, now a prom­i­nent hu­man rights ac­tivist, says she’s not giv­ing up on her hus­band’s re­lease ei­ther.

Later this week she is sched­uled to meet with Trudeau, where she’ll once again press him to grant Badawi Cana­dian cit­i­zen­ship.

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