Saudi girl who fled fam­ily granted asy­lum in Canada

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AN 18-YEAR-OLD Saudi woman who fled her fam­ily this week say­ing she feared for her life, ar­rived in Toronto’s in­ter­na­tional air­port on Satur­day af­ter be­ing granted asy­lum in Canada, where For­eign Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land wel­comed her as a brave new Cana­dian.

Ra­haf Mo­hammed al-Qu­nun grabbed in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion this week af­ter she bar­ri­caded her­self in a Bangkok air­port ho­tel room to re­sist be­ing sent home to her fam­ily, which de­nies any abuse. Qu­nun re­fused to meet her fa­ther and brother, who ar­rived in Bangkok to try to take her back to Saudi Ara­bia.

Qu­nun ar­rived at Toronto’s Pear­son In­ter­na­tional Air­port on Satur­day morn­ing, wear­ing a hoodie em­bla­zoned with the word Canada in red, and a blue cap with the logo of the United Na­tions High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which has granted her refugee sta­tus.

In her last tweet be­fore leav­ing for Toronto, Qu­nun said, “I did it,” and posted pic­tures from in­side an air­plane.

Free­land, who re­ceived Qu­nun at the air­port, told re­porters that Qu­nun is ‘a very brave new Cana­dian’. “Ra­haf wanted Cana­di­ans to see that she has ar­rived at her new home,” Free­land told re­porters. “But she had a very long and tir­ing jour­ney and so would pre­fer not to take ques­tions to­day. And she is now go­ing to go to her new home.” A smil­ing Qu­nun waved to re­porters as she walked out into the in­ter­na­tional ar­rivals area but did not speak to the me­dia. Af­ter a brief ap­pear­ance, she was taken back into the air­port ter­mi­nal. Canada’s de­ci­sion to grant asy­lum to Qu­nun comes at a del­i­cate time. Re­la­tions be­tween Ot­tawa and Riyadh have been tense af­ter Canada de­manded the im­me­di­ate re­lease of jailed rights ac­tivists last year, in­fu­ri­at­ing Saudi Ara­bia who re­tal­i­ated by freez­ing new trade with Ot­tawa.

Qu­nun, who had ini­tially in­tended to seek asy­lum in Aus­tralia, chose Canada in­stead be­cause Aus­tralia took too long as­sess­ing whether to grant her asy­lum.

Qu­nun came to Canada be­cause Aus­tralia was tak­ing too much time

Ra­haf Mo­hammed al-Qu­nun (C) ac­com­pa­nied by Cana­dian Min­is­ter of For­eign Af­fairs Chrys­tia Free­land (R) and Saba Ab­bas, gen­eral coun­sel­lor of COSTI refugee ser­vice (L).

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