Canada grants asylum to Rahaf Alqunun
Rahaf al-Qunun says she fled abuse by her family and could be killed if she returns [Courtesy of Rahaf al-Qunun/AFP]
The 18-year-old left Bangkok airport for Canada, officials confirmed, after her ordeal went viral on social media. Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, who barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room earlier this week in a bid to stave off deportation to the kingdom, has been granted asylum by Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said.
On Friday evening, the 18-year-old, who claimed to be fleeing abuse from her family, boarded a Korean Air flight from Bangkok to Seoul where she will take a connecting flight to Canada.
"Canada has been unequivocal that we'll stand up for human rights and women's rights around the world," Trudeau said. "When the United Nations made a request of us that we grant Miss Alqunun's asylum, we accepted." Alqunun arrived in Bangkok on a flight from Kuwait over the weekend, saying her family subjected her to physical and psychological abuse. Her father travelled to Thailand and denied mistreating her but she refused to see him during his trip. The teenager said she planned to seek asylum in Australia, fearing she would be killed if repatriated by Thai immigration officials who stopped her at the airport. Alqunun live-tweeted her entire stay at the airport, posting videos and constantly updating her followers. Her Twitter account gained more than 100,000 followers over six days but the teenager reportedly suspended her profile on Friday after receiving "some very nasty, very real death threats". Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter: "Rahaf temporarily suspended her #Twitter account because she has been receiving some very nasty, very real death threats. Not sure when she will resume, & think it depends on what @Twitter @Jack does about tracking & shutting down those accounts making these threats! #SaveRahaf"