World Media

Saudi teen Rahaf Alqunun granted asylum in Canada, Justin Trudeau confirms

Saudi teen Rahaf Alqunun granted asylum in Canada, Justin Trudeau confirms

A Saudi woman who fled her family and became stranded at Bangkok's main airport is now flying to Canada to seek asylum, Thai officials say.

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

Canadian authorities said they could not confirm that the young woman had been granted asylum in the country.

Rahaf's swift use of Twitter saw her amass more than 100,000 followers within a week, highlighting her plight at a time when Saudi Arabia's human rights record is under heavy scrutiny following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi previous year.

"Canada has been unequivocal that we'll stand up for human rights and women's rights around the world", Trudeau said. On Wednesday the United Nations ruled that she is, in fact, a legitimate refugee and recommended that she be resettled in Australia.

Qunun has accused her family of abuse, a charge they deny.

She quashed speculation that Alqunun might accompany her back to Australia, "because there are steps which are required in the process which Australia, and any other country considering such a matter, would have to go through". Several Saudis girls and women fleeing abuse by their families have been caught trying to seek asylum overseas in recent years, and returned home.

Canada's ambassador had seen her off at the airport, Surachate said, adding that she looked happy and healthy.

Under Saudi Arabia's "male guardianship system", a Saudi woman is required to obtain a male relative's approval to apply for a passport, travel outside the country, study overseas on a government scholarship, get married, leave prison, or even exit a shelter for abuse victims.

By Friday, Alqunun had closed down her Twitter account.

Truck driver in crash of hockey team’s bus pleads guilty
December 3, 2018: The Saskatchewan government announces it will make training mandatory for semi-truck drivers starting in March. October 10, 2018: The Alberta government announces charges against the Calgary trucking company that hired Sidhu.

The UN agency thanked both governments for their quick response and specifically thanked Canada for accepting al-Qunun and arranging her travel.

Ms.al-Qunun's case was dealt with on a fast-track "emergency" basis in light of the urgency of her situation.

She barricaded herself in an airport hotel room and launched a social media campaign that drew global attention.

"Usually it's really very slow", said Mary Anne Kenny, a veteran legal practitioner and expert in Australian migration at Perth's Murdoch University. Bahrain is seeking his extradition.

"I'm not leaving my room until I see UNHCR [the United Nations refugee agency]", she said in a video statement.

Qunun had previously expressed wanting to come to Canada on her Twitter account, which was deleted on Friday after getting death threats, Reuters reported.

Within hours, she amassed a huge following on Twitter as she refused to board a flight back the conservative kingdom and barricaded herself inside a hotel room.

Fleeing them while travelling in Kuwait throws her into conflict with Saudi Arabia's "guardianship" system, which allows male family members to make decisions on behalf of female relatives, she said.

Payne will meet with Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister Prajin Juntong as well as holding a bilateral meeting with her Thai counterpart, Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, as part of her first official visit to Thailand as foreign minister.

In 2014 Bahrain sentenced him in absentia to 10 years for allegedly vandalizing a police station.