TORONTO (Reuters) – An 18-year-old Saudi girl who fled her household this week saying she feared for her life arrived in Toronto’s worldwide airport on Saturday after being granted asylum in Canada, the place International Minister Chrystia Freeland welcomed her as a courageous new Canadian.
Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun grabbed worldwide consideration this week after she barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport resort room to withstand being despatched dwelling to her household, which denies any abuse. Qunun refused to satisfy her father and brother, who arrived in Bangkok to attempt to take her again to Saudi Arabia.
Qunun arrived at Toronto’s Pearson Worldwide Airport on Saturday morning, sporting a hoodie emblazoned with the phrase Canada in crimson, and a blue cap with the brand of the United Nations Excessive Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which has granted her refugee standing.
In her final tweet earlier than leaving for Toronto, Qunun stated, “I did it,” and posted footage from inside an airplane.
Freeland, who obtained Qunun on the airport, informed reporters that Qunun is “a really courageous new Canadian.”
“Rahaf wished Canadians to see that she has arrived at her new dwelling,” Freeland informed reporters. “However she had a really lengthy and tiring journey and so would like to not take questions at this time. And he or she is now going to go to her new dwelling.”
A smiling Qunun waved to reporters as she walked out into the worldwide arrivals space however didn’t converse to the media. After a short look, she was taken again into the airport terminal.
Canada’s determination to grant asylum to Qunun comes at a delicate time. Relations between Ottawa and Riyadh have been tense after Canada demanded the quick launch of jailed rights activists final 12 months, infuriating Saudi Arabia who retaliated by freezing new commerce with Ottawa.
Qunun, who had initially meant to hunt asylum in Australia, selected Canada as a substitute as a result of Australia took too lengthy assessing whether or not to grant her asylum.
“(Australia) takes too lengthy. That’s why I went to Canada,” she informed Reuters in a direct message earlier than boarding her flight to Toronto. Qunun took a Korean Air flight from Bangkok to Seoul on Friday after which a connecting flight to Toronto.
Her case has drawn world consideration to Saudi Arabia’s strict social guidelines, together with a requirement that girls have the permission of a male “guardian” to journey, which rights teams say can entice girls and women as prisoners of abusive households.
Qunun arrived in Bangkok every week in the past and was initially denied entry. However she quickly began posting messages on Twitter from the transit space of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport saying she had “escaped Kuwait” and her life could be at risk if pressured to return to Saudi Arabia.
Inside hours, a marketing campaign sprang up dubbed #SaveRahaf, unfold on Twitter by a free community of activists.
Following a 48-hour stand-off at Bangkok airport, a few of it barricaded in a transit lounge resort room, she was allowed to enter the nation and was processed as a refugee by the UNHCR.
Extra reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Writing by Denny Thomas; Enhancing by Chizu Nomiyama