Saudi woman fleeing alleged abuse heads for asylum in Canada

Clay Curtis
January 14, 2019

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

Australia's Education Minister Dan Tehan said Saturday that Australia had moved quickly to process her case but Canada made a decision to take her in.

Alqunun's father and brother, who denied any allegations of abuse, traveled to Thailand and attempted to meet her, but Hakparn said as of Friday morning she had refused the meeting. "She's going to be safe", he said.

He said he wants Qunun back but respects her decision.

The Saudi woman who fled to Thailand has been permitted asylum in Canada.

"This is part of a long tradition of Canada engaging constructively and positively in the world and working with our partners, allies and with the United Nations", he said Friday.

The case is the latest in a series highlighting what human rights activists say is the widespread subservient treatment of women in Saudi Arabia.

"I'm 100 per cent sure they will KILL me", she told Global News in a Twitter message, saying her family had threatened her after she renounced Islam.

The woman - in a widely followed social media campaign - had said she had "escaped Kuwait" and her life would have been in danger if Thailand had deported her back to Saudi Arabia.

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Australia had dropped strong hints it would accept her after the United Nations urged the country to do so and it remains unclear why the resettlement location changed.

Robertson praised the swift action of Donica Pottie, Canada's ambassador to Thailand, for her early involvement in the case and helping push the Thai government to allow the UNHCR to gain access to Alqunun, which is not something that usually happens in such cases in Thailand.

Trudeau's surprise announcement came after officials had heavily hinted that she was bound for Australia.

"We believe very strongly that woman's rights are human rights", Freeland said. Ms al-Qunun left Thailand en route to Canada today.

The Twitter account used by Qunun throughout her appeal for asylum was temporarily deactivated Friday but she later reappeared online, posting images from an airplane seat of what appeared to be her Saudi passport and boarding pass.

A loose group of activists and friends bolstered her social media campaign using the hashtag #SaveRahaf and was able to stave off deportation. Before that, Canada and Saudi Arabia were engaged in a diplomatic spat over a federal government tweet criticizing a Saudi civil rights crackdown, prompting the kingdom to expel Canada's ambassador and ordering their citizens studying in Canada to leave.

"Once again we are seeing the abusive influence of Saudi authorities overseas as they seek to forcibly return Saudi women fleeing mistreatment and violence by their families", said Page.

"I survived from death", she said, reflecting that since the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate in Instabul she has feared for her own life.

Australia's 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. The two men planned to return to Saudi Arabia early Saturday, he said.

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