Published: Mon, January 14, 2019
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

'Brave new Canadian:' Runaway Saudi woman reaches new home

'Brave new Canadian:' Runaway Saudi woman reaches new home

She accused her family of abuse and refused to meet her father and brother who sought to take her back to Saudi Arabia.

The source, who was not authorized to speak about Canada's role in granting Ms.al-Qunun asylum, said the government would not make any public comment until it was assured that she was safely in Canada.

The young Saudi woman who fled her family seeking asylum overseas is scheduled to land in Canada on Saturday after successfully harnessing the power of Twitter to stave off deportation from Thailand.

However, Canadian authorities said they could not confirm that Qunun had been granted asylum in Canada.

Surachate said her father - whose name has not been released - denied physically abusing Alqunun or trying to force her into an arranged marriage, which were among the reasons she gave for her flight.

"She had a pretty long journey and is exhausted and prefers not to take questions for the moment", the diplomatic chief added, with an arm around Qunun's shoulder.

UNHCR says the teen is en route to Canada, and it is grateful for the government's decision to provide global protection and a "long-term solution for her there as a resettled refugee".

"She chose Canada. Canada said it will accept her", he said.

Qunun's story has also put Saudi Arabia's male guardianship system, which restricts many aspects of women's lives, back under worldwide scrutiny. "That's why I went to Canada", she told Reuters in a direct message before boarding her flight to Toronto.

Ms.al-Qunun then barricaded herself in an airport hotel room and launched a social media campaign via her Twitter account that drew global attention to her case.

Australia was assessing a request to resettle her, but hours after the young woman tweeted that she had "some good news and some bad news".

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Previously, several countries including Canada and Australia were in talks with the United Nations refugee agency in Bangkok on accepting Qunun.

"I do note that there are legal proceedings underway in relation to Mr.al-Araibi, and Australia will continue to be in very close contact with Thai authorities in relation to this". The UNHCR granted her refugee status, and Australia's Department of Home Affairs told NPR that Australia would "consider this referral [for refugee resettlement] in the usual way, as it does with all UNHCR referrals".

"Canada has been unequivocal that we'll stand up for human rights and women's rights around the world", Trudeau said.

"Canada, as you know, has been closely following the situation with Ms.Rahaf al-Qunun".

Alqunun deactivated her Twitter account on Friday.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees granted her refugee status on Wednesday.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, told BuzzFeed News that Qunun suspended her account because of some "very nasty, very real death threats".

Several Saudi women fleeing abuse by their families have tried to seek asylum overseas in recent years but have been sent back home.

In a statement, the ministry said Rahaf was being deported because she lacked a return ticket or a tourist itinerary in Thailand.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne met with senior Thai officials in Bangkok on Thursday. Australia had said it was considering whether to offer her asylum, but a UNHCR spokesman hinted in an email to NPR that Ottawa moved more quickly.

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