Canada welcomes 18 year-old Saudi who fled for her rights and freedom

At Toronto Airport Rahaf appeared tired but smiling. Ottawa Foreign Minister calls her "courageous" new Canadian citizen. The story is likely to open a new confrontation on rights with Riyadh.


Toronto (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Saudi 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun arrived in Canada this weekend, after days stuck in Thailand waiting for a visa for Australia after the United Nations granted her refugee status.

Through the social media the young woman resisted attempts of repatriation of the Thai authorities, at the request of Riyadh for several. According to the girl, if she returned to her country of origin her family members would have killed her.

The Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland welcomed her to Toronto Pearson International Airport, and hugged a smiling Rahaf who had just disembarked from the plane. To testify her gratitude, the 18-year-old Saudi (pictured) wore a sweatshirt from the host nation and a hat from the UN High Commission for Refugees.

The young woman arrived in Toronto after having stopped in Seoul. "Canada - said the head of Ottawa diplomacy - is happy to have managed to move quickly and to have offered hospitality to a refugee, at the request of UNHCR". "And to offer shelter - added Freeland -  a courageous" new Canadian citizen "whose life" is in clear danger".

In Saudi Arabia, women are repressed for their activism and the so-called "reforms" of the hereditary prince Mohammad bin Salman (Mbs), including the end of the ban on driving, have barely taken place. Male protection is considered as a form of gender apartheid, which binds the woman to her "guardian" man, be it father, husband or a male relative.

In the hours that preceded her arrival at Toronto International Airport, Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau also spoke of the case saying that the government has accepted the request of the UN High Commission for Refugees. "Canada - he added - does not admit uncertainties about the fact that it will always be on the side of human rights and women's rights".

Already in the recent past Riyadh and Ottawa clashed on the subject of personal rights and liberties.

On her arrival, the young woman appeared smiling but tired from the long journey and the stressful days spent at the Bangkok airport. From here, perhaps, the decision not to make statements upon arrival. Shortly before take-off from Seoul she had launched a last message via twitter saying: "I did it!".

The family and the Saudi authorities did not want to make official statements about the affair. A person close to the relatives of the young woman reports that the parents do not want to talk and that they would be interested only in the well-being of the girl. In recent days Rahaf had reported psychological and physical violence on the part of the family, which locked her up and kept her prisoner for six months in her room for cutting her hair.

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