Saudi teen Ra­haf Alqu­nun due to ar­rive in Canada for asy­lum

Tehran Times - - WORLD IN FOCUS -

An 18-year-old Saudi woman who fled her fam­ily say­ing she feared for her life, is due to ar­rive in Canada on Satur­day, af­ter be­ing granted asy­lum in the North Amer­i­can coun­try.

Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau said on Fri­day that Canada had ac­cepted a re­quest from the United Na­tions High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to take in Ra­haf Mo­hammed Alqu­nun, who grabbed in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion ear­lier this week af­ter she bar­ri­caded her­self in a Bangkok air­port ho­tel room to re­sist be­ing sent home to her fam­ily, which de­nies any abuse.

“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, and I can con­firm that we have ac­cepted the UN’s re­quest,” Trudeau told re­porters.

The de­ci­sion is likely to ex­ac­er­bate Canada’s al­ready poor re­la­tions with Saudi Ara­bia, which last year barred the Cana­dian am­bas­sador to Riyadh af­ter Ot­tawa crit­i­cized Saudi regime au­thor­i­ties for de­tain­ing fe­male ac­tivists.

Alqu­nun had ar­rived in Bangkok on Jan­uary 5 and was ini­tially de­nied en­try, but she soon started post­ing mes­sages on Twit­ter from the tran­sit area of Bangkok’s Su­varn­ab­humi air­port say­ing she had “es­caped Kuwait” and her life would be in danger if forced to re­turn to Saudi Ara­bia.

Fol­low­ing a 48-hour stand­off at Bangkok air­port, some of it bar­ri­caded in a tran­sit lounge ho­tel room, she was al­lowed to en­ter Thai­land and was then pro­cessed as a refugee by the UNHCR.

The UNHCR wel­comed Canada’s de­ci­sion and also ac­knowl­edged Thai­land had given Alqu­nun a tem­po­rary refuge.

“Ms. Alqu­nun’s plight has cap­tured the world’s at­ten­tion over the past few days, pro­vid­ing a glimpse into the pre­car­i­ous sit­u­a­tion of mil­lions of refugees world­wide,” UN High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a state­ment.

Alqu­nun has ac­cused her fam­ily of abuse and has re­fused to meet her fa­ther and brother who ar­rived in Bangkok to take her back to Saudi Ara­bia.

“It was her wish to go to Canada,” Thai­land’s im­mi­gra­tion chief Su­rachate Hak­parn told re­porters. “She still re­fuses to meet with her fa­ther and brother, and they are go­ing to be trav­el­ling back tonight as well ... They are dis­ap­pointed.”

Her case has drawn global at­ten­tion to Saudi Ara­bia’s strict so­cial rules, in­clud­ing a re­quire­ment that women have the per­mis­sion of a male “guardian” to travel, which rights groups say can trap women and girls as pris­on­ers of abu­sive fam­i­lies.

A Korean Air flight car­ry­ing Alqu­nun left Bangkok for Seoul on Fri­day night at 11:37pm lo­cal time (16:37 GMT), an air­port of­fi­cial told Reuters news agency.

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