No more tweeting for Saudi asylum seeker after 'threats'

Jan 13, 2019, 01:11
No more tweeting for Saudi asylum seeker after 'threats'

Qunun arrived in Toronto from Seoul, South Korea, a day after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would accept her as a refugee.

Ms al-Qunun said she would be departing for her new home "soon" and has been assigned an apartment in an unknown town or city.

But last night, Thailand's immigration police chief Surachate Hakparn said a smiling and cheerful Rahaf was bound for Toronto and had left on a flight.

Qunun and her supporters drew global attention to her case through a social media campaign launched mostly on Twitter.

Raif Badawi's wife Ensaf Haidar also praised Canada, calling Freeland on Twitter "the real hero" behind efforts to prevent Qunun's repatriation to Saudi Arabia.

"This is Rahaf al-Qunun, a very courageous new Canadian", Freeland told reporters, holding onto al-Qunun, who was wearing a "Canada" sweatshirt.

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Alqunun, from Hail in northwestern Saudi Arabia, had said she feared she may have been killed if forced to return to her family.

Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland introduced the teenager as "a very courageous new Canadian" but said that Ms al-Qunun was exhausted from her ordeal and long journey and would not be making any public statement on Saturday.

The 18-year-old, who was en route to Australia, was stopped by Saudi and Kuwaiti officials when she arrived at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport last Saturday, and her travel document forcibly taken from her.

Ms Qunun's attempt to flee the ultra-conservative kingdom was embraced by rights groups as a beacon of defiance against repression.

The UNHCR gave Alqunun protection in Thailand as they evaluated her asylum case.

"She is a very fearless young woman who has been through a lot. and she is now going to go to her new home", the minister added.

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The country's decision to offer asylum to Qunun may do little to mend relations with Saudi Arabia, which nosedived last summer after officials in Ottawa accused the kingdom of human rights violations and demanded the release of imprisoned activists. She later told reporters that Australia assessing Alqunun's request for resettlement, but there was no specific timeframe. "Truly I have never dreamed of this love and support".

The acceptance of the teen could further damage Saudi Arabia's relationship with Canada.

Her deployment of social media allowed her to avoid the fate of countless other refugees who are quietly sent back home or left to languish in Bangkok detention centers. "She still refuses to meet with her father and brother, and they are going to be travelling back tonight as well". She said her father physically abused her and tried to force her into an arranged marriage.

Canada's decision to grant asylum to Qunun comes at a delicate time.

"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", Mr. Trudeau told a news conference in Regina.

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