Saudi Woman Flying to Asylum in Canada

12 January, 2019, 14:58 | Author: Trevor Moore
  • Saudi Runaway Woman

Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun (centre) is escorted by a Thai Immigration Chief Lt Gen Surachate Hakparn (right) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) officials at Suvarnabhumi global airport in Bangkok on Monday.

Ms Alqunun is flying to Toronto via Seoul, South Korea, according to Thai immigration Police Chief Surachate Hakparn. "She'll leave tonight at 11:15 p.m".

The Canada-Saudi Arabia relations have soured after a diplomatic row which was sparked by the Canadian government's call for the immediate release of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi and his sister Samar via Twitter on August 5, 2018.

Several countries including Australia had been in talks with the United Nations refugee agency to accept Ms al-Qunun, who fled alleged family abuse and has been targeted with death threats.

Qunun was granted UNHCR refugee status after she locked herself inside a hotel room at the Bangkok International Airport and launched an international social media campaign to prevent Thai authorities from deporting or handing her over to her family.

But armed with a smartphone and a hastily opened Twitter account, she forced a U-turn from Thai immigration police who handed her into the care of the UN's refugee agency as the #SaveRahaf hashtag bounced across the world.

Saudi Arabia's guardianship system requires women to have permission from a male relative to work, travel, marry and even get medical treatment in some cases.

Al-Qunun's case has raised the state of women's rights in Saudi Arabia, where several women have been caught trying to seek asylum after fleeing their homes.

Australia had been one of the countries weighing offering Ms Alqunun asylum.

Her father travelled to Thailand and denied mistreating her but she refused to see him during his trip.

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"She's just been receiving a lot of death threats", McNeill said on Twitter.

After a 48-hour wait, she was permitted to enter Thailand and has been processed as a refugee by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

When asked if bringing al-Qunun to Canada could further inflame tensions with Saudi Arabia, Trudeau would only say Canada is standing up for human rights.

The Canadian ambassador to Saudi was sent home, and relations have worsened since.

Alqunun live-tweeted every stay at the airport, posting videos and constantly updating her followers.

The ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia has come under fire since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the country's consulate in Istanbul previous year.

The top Australian diplomat was expected to meet with Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister Prajin Juntong and hold a bilateral meeting with her Thai counterpart, Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, to discuss Qunun's case.

The 18-year-old has said she was fleeing from her family out of fear they would kill her for renouncing Islam, something that is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.

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