Runaway Saudi Teen Finds a New Home

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun lands in Toronto, Canada
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 12, 2019 11:45 AM CST
Updated Jan 12, 2019 12:20 PM CST
Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, 18, center, stands with Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, right, as she arrives at Toronto Pearson International Airport, on Saturday, Jan.12, 2019.   (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
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(Newser) – An 18-year-old Saudi runaway who said she was abused and feared death if deported back home arrived Saturday in Canada, which had offered her asylum in a case that attracted global attention after she mounted a social media campaign, per the AP. "This is Rahaf Alqunun, a very brave new Canadian," Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said arm-in-arm with the Saudi woman in Toronto's airport. Alqunun smiled broadly as she exited an airport arrival door sporting a Canada zipper hoodie and a UN High Commissioner for Refugees hat, capping a dramatic week that saw her flee her family while visiting Kuwait and before flying to Bangkok. From there, she barricaded herself in an airport hotel to avoid deportation and tweeted about her situation.

On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would accept Alqunun as a refugee. Her situation has highlighted the cause of women's rights in Saudi Arabia, where several women fleeing abuse by their families have been caught trying to seek asylum abroad in recent years and returned home. Human rights activists say many similar cases go unreported. Freeland said Alqunun preferred not to take questions Saturday. "It was a pleasure for me this morning to welcome her to her new home," Freeland said. "She is obviously very tired after a long journey and she preferred to go and get settled. But it was Rahaf's choice to come out and say hello to Canadians. She wanted Canadians to see that she's here, that she's well and that she's very happy to be in her new home." (In related news, Saudi women will now know when they've been divorced.)


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