‘Brave new Canadian’

Saudi asylum seeker, Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, gets warm welcome in Canada

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, the 18-year-old Saudi woman whose dramatic attempt to flee her family captured international attention, arrived in Canada on Saturday, after the country agreed to grant her asylum.

Qunun was photographed at Toronto’s international airport, smiling and wearing a sweatshirt stamped with the word “Canada.” She was greeted by Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, who told reporters that Qunun is “a very brave new Canadian,” according to Reuters.

Reportedly afraid that her family would kill her because she renounced Islam, Qunun flew from Kuwait to Bangkok, Thailand last week, with the intention of traveling on to Australia. But Thai immigration officials attempted to send her back to the Middle East, prompting Qunun to lock herself in an airport hotel room. She tweeted about her ordeal and the campaign #SaveRahaf soon proliferated on Twitter, whereby social media users urged Thailand’s government not to force Qunun to return to her family.

After 48 hours, Qunun was allowed to enter the country and was processed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which granted her refugee status. According to CNN, Saudi chargé d’affaires Abdalelah Mohammed A. al-Shuaibi later told Thai officials that he wished “they had confiscated her phone instead of her passport.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Friday that Canada had accepted an appeal by U.N. officials to grant Qunun asylum. Qunun told Reuters that her original destination, Australia, had taken too long to assess her asylum request.

Qunun did not speak to reporters who had gathered to document her arrival in Toronto. “Rahaf wanted Canadians to see that she has arrived at her new home,” Freeland told the media, according to Reuters. “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.”

Read more at Reuters.


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