TORONTO — It was once every other proud second for Canada: a Saudi teen who had simply been granted asylum strolling throughout the arrivals gate at Toronto airport embraced by way of the rustic’s fashionable overseas minister.
Wearing a grey sweatshirt emblazoned with the phrase “Canada,” 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun smiled on the throng of cameras that greeted her. But she left it to Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland to do the speaking.
The minister offered her as a “very brave new Canadian,” including that the younger girl — who spent the remaining week in a Bangkok airport lodge lobbying for her freedom — was once drained and simply sought after to “go to her new home.”
“Where we can save a single person, where we can save a single woman, that is a good thing to do,” stated Ms. Freeland, who refused to reply to repeated questions on how this resolution will impact Canada’s already strained dating with Saudi Arabia. “And I’d like to also emphasize, this is part of a broader Canadian policy of supporting women and girls in Canada and around the world.”
The Saudi teen turned into a social media sensation and motive celébrè for girls’s and refugee rights after fleeing her circle of relatives right through a vacation in Kuwait to hunt asylum.
She described her existence in an interview with The New York Times as one in every of unrelenting abuse by the hands of her circle of relatives, who reside in the town of Hail, in northern Saudi Arabia. She stated she was once as soon as locked in a room for 6 months as a result of she had minimize her hair in some way that her circle of relatives didn’t approve of and that her members of the family used to overcome her, specifically her brother.
Two years in the past, after an unsuccessful suicide try, her circle of relatives didn’t search assist for her, she stated. It was once then she began making plans her get away. Her probability for freedom got here remaining week, when her circle of relatives took a shuttle to Kuwait, which doesn’t have the similar restrictions on girls.
But as soon as she arrived in Bangkok remaining Saturday, making plans to trip directly to Australia, she stated her passport was once confiscated and Thai officers threatened to go back her to her circle of relatives. Her brother and father arrived in Bangkok, challenging that she go back with them.
Instead, she barricaded herself in a Thai airport lodge, opened a Twitter account and fastened a social media marketing campaign for her asylum.
“I’m in real danger because the Saudi embassy trying to forcing me to go back to Saudi Arabia, while I’m at the airport waiting for my second flight,” she wrote in one publish in English. In every other publish, she stated: “They will kill me because I fled and because I announced my atheism. They wanted me to pray and to wear a veil, and I didn’t want to.”
After Thai officers relented, and the United Nations declared her a refugee, the Canadian executive agreed to grant her asylum. This additional cemented the rustic’s standing as a bastion of safe haven in an international the place Western international locations have grow to be more and more adverse to refugees.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday stated his executive was once “pleased” to offer secure haven for Ms. Alqunun “because Canada is a country that understands how important it is to stand up for human rights, to stand up for women’s rights around the world.”
While reward for Canada poured in, human rights teams criticized Australia — which were Ms. Alqunun’s authentic vacation spot — for dragging its ft on her document.
At a press convention two days in the past in Bangkok, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne stated her executive was once going throughout the procedural steps to evaluate Ms. Alqunun as a refugee.
“Why did Rahaf go to Canada instead of her preferred choice of Australia where she had friends?” Human Rights Watch government director Kenneth Roth stated in a tweet. “Because she needed safety from her Saudi pursuers fast, and Canada expedited her case while Australia (under Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton) slow-walked it.”
Locally, there may be fear about whether or not the transfer will additional harm Canada’s already frayed dating with Saudi Arabia. In August, the dominion expelled the Canadian ambassador to Riyadh, recalled the Saudi ambassador to Ottawa and iced up all new business and funding offers with Canada after Ms. Freeland’s ministry posted two Twitter messages calling on Saudi Arabia to liberate imprisoned rights activists, together with two who’ve circle of relatives in Canada.
“It’s not going to help for sure,” stated former Canadian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Dennis Horak in a radio interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.“This will be seen as probably just another example of our interference in Saudi’s internal affairs.”
Attempts to succeed in the Saudi Embassy in Canada failed. The kingdom additionally retaliated towards Canada remaining summer season with a chain of alternative measures that incorporated postponing flights by way of nationwide airline Saudia to Canadian airports and ordering the switch of 1000’s of Saudi scholars finding out in Canada somewhere else.
Over the following months, Ms. Alqunun will be capable to get admission to Canada’s beneficiant immigration techniques, together with loose language categories, per 30 days assessments for meals, and assist discovering and furnishing a house. But first, she must get used to the Canadian winters.
“I told her it does get warmer,” Ms. Freeland stated.