An 18-year-old Saudi woman who said she feared death if deported back home has arrived in Canada, which has granted her asylum.
“This a very brave new Canadian,” Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said about Rahaf Mohammed Al-Qunun as she stood by her side at Toronto’s airport.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had said Canada would accept Al-Qunun as a refugee.
“Canada has been unequivocal that we will always stand up for human rights and women’s rights around the world,” Trudeau told reporters, BBC News reported. “When the UN made a request of us that we grant Ms. al-Qunun asylum, we accepted.”
Her arrival in Canada capped a dramatic week that saw her flee her family while visiting Kuwait and before flying to Bangkok, where she barricaded herself in an airport hotel to avoid deportation. The case grabbed global attention after she mounted a social media campaign for asylum.
Human Rights Watch deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson had tweeted a brief video of al-Qunun in her room, saying simply, “I’m not leaving my room until I see UNHCR. I want asylum.” The UNHCR is the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, also known as the U.N. Refugee Agency. The chief of Thailand’s Immigration Police later said al-Qunun would not be sent anywhere against her wishes.
The incident came amid intense scrutiny of Saudi Arabia over its investigation and handling of the shocking murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year, which has renewed criticism of the kingdom’s human rights record.