World News

Saudi Refugee in Canada Expects More Women to Flee Homeland

Saudi Refugee in Canada Expects More Women to Flee Homeland

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, 18, told Australian Broadcasting Corp in an interview recorded in Toronto and broadcast in Australia on Tuesday that she hoped that the global attention on her flight from oppression in Saudi Arabia will be a catalyst for change.

In a public appearance organized by the United Nations refugee agency and an immigrant-aid group, she said through an interpreter that first priority is to learn English.

She had arrived on a flight from Kuwait after running away from her family, claiming that they subjected her to physical and psychological abuse.

After barricading herself in a in a Thailand airport hotel to avoid deportation, Ms Qunun made worldwide headlines as she pleaded for help in a bid to stop her deportation back to Saudi Arabia.

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 overseas in recent years and returned home.

"I want to be independent: travel, make my own decisions on education, a career, or who and when I should marry".

While her father and brother headed to Thailand to retrieve her, the teen said, she contemplated killing herself.

For al-Qunun, the last straw came when she was "locked up" in the house for cutting her hair short and looking too manly for a Muslim woman.

"I know that there are unlucky women who disappeared after trying to escape, or who could not do anything to change their reality", she said in a translated statement read aloud by Dr. Saba Abbas. "I felt overjoyed. There was a lot of love and hospitality, especially when the minister welcomed me and told me I was in a safe country and had all my rights".

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"I will work in support of freedom for women around the world".

She said she hoped her story would act as an inspiration for other women in Saudi Arabia oppressed by the guardianship laws.

"I had no say in any of this".

"I would like to start living a normal private life, just like any other young woman living in Canada", she said.

"Where she's staying, a professional security that we've contracted to be there, and we make sure that she is never alone", he told reporters. We haven't seen any threats, but on social media there have been some threats.

She said her family mentally and physically abused her since she was 16, CBC reported.

Refugee resettlement is often a lengthy process once a candidate has been approved, but Costi takes an average of two emergency cases per year, said Calla. She was granted asylum in Canada on Friday.

UNHCR spokeswoman Lauren La Rose said the fact she was processed so quickly is a credit to those that made it happen. Mohammed has finished high school and wants to go to university, having expressed an interest in civil engineering, he said.


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