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Saudi Arabia

Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun who fled family granted asylum by Canada: Thai authorities

  • The 18-year-old will travel transit through South Korea before landing in Canada
PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 January, 2019, 11:30pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 January, 2019, 3:32am

A Saudi teenager who fled to Thailand over alleged abuse by her family has been granted asylum in Canada, Thailand’s immigration chief told Reuters on Friday.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, will be boarding a Korean Air flight from Bangkok to Seoul on Friday night, before boarding a connecting flight to Canada, immigration chief Surachate Hakparn said.

“Canada has granted her asylum. She’ll leave tonight at 11.15pm.”

The office of Canada’s foreign minister however, said it could not confirm that asylum had been granted.

Al-Qunun, 18, was stopped at a Bangkok airport last Saturday by Thai immigration police who denied her entry and seized her passport.

While barricading herself in an airport hotel room, the 18-year-old launched a social media campaign via her Twitter account that drew global attention to her case.

It garnered enough public and diplomatic support to convince Thai officials to admit her temporarily under the protection of UN officials.

Saudi Arabia aims to end child marriage, but loopholes remain

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees granted her refugee status on Wednesday.

Al-Qunun’s case has highlighted the cause of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. Several female Saudis 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 have gone unreported.

By Friday, al-Qunun had closed down her Twitter account.

Sophie McNeill, a reporter with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation who got in contact with al-Qunun while she was stuck in the airport hotel room and has kept in touch with her, said Friday in a Twitter posting that al-Qunun “is safe and fine”.

“She’s just been receiving a lot of death threats,” McNeill wrote, adding that al-Qunun would be back on Twitter after a “short break”.

Al-Qunun had previously said on Twitter that she wished to seek refuge in Australia.