Canada grants asy­lum to Saudi woman flee­ing abu­sive fam­ily

The Peterborough Examiner - - Canada & World - MIKE BLANCHFIELD

REGINA — Canada granted asy­lum on Fri­day to the Saudi woman who won the world’s at­ten­tion on so­cial me­dia in her des­per­ate at­tempt to flee an abu­sive fam­ily af­ter 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.

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.

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 dur­ing a press con­fer­ence in Regina that the United Na­tions High Com­mis­sion for Refugees asked Canada to take Alqu­nun as a refugee, and Canada 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.

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.

The gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion is sure to fur­ther strain Canada’s re­la­tions with Saudi Ara­bia. In Au­gust, Saudi Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man ex­pelled Canada’s am­bas­sador and with­drew his own en­voy af­ter For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land called for the re­lease of women’s rights ac­tivists who had been ar­rested in Saudi Ara­bia.

SAKCHAI LALIT THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau an­nounced Fri­day that Canada would ac­cept 18-year-old Ra­haf Mo­hammed Alqu­nun as a refugee.

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