Saudi Teen Seeking Asylum Arrives In Canada

Safa Hameed

On Jan. 5, Rahaf Alqunun, an 18 year old from Saudi Arabia, was fleeing from her home because of alleged abuse when she got detained in Bangkok, Thailand.

The Teen fled while vacationing in Kuwait, without her family’s notice. She claimed that she had been going through physical and physiological abuse back at her home because she had renounced Islam which is punishable by death. According to The Washington Post, a friend of Alqunun, who fled herself, stated that she (Alqunun) got locked up for six months because she cut her hair. Her friend added that this was one of the smallest punishments Alqunun had received, and that she is scared to death of her father.

After arriving in Bangkok, Alqunun had hoped to make it to Australia where she was originally planning to seek asylum. However, before she she could do so, Thai officials came to deport her back to Kuwait while in her hotel.  Alqunun refused deportation and barricaded herself in her room.

There, she began tweeting about her situation, and at one point she even posted a picture of her passport to prove her identity. Her case garnered so much attention on twitter, especially from the Human Right Watch, that Thai officials had no choice but to approve her request for a meeting with the UN. She eventually met with representatives of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to “asses her case and find an immediate solution”.

At a press conference,  Surachate Hakparn, the head of the Thai immigration services, explained that at first they had detain Alqunun because, “she had no return destination, no money, and entered Thailand with no papers.”Alqunun, on the other hand, said that she never entered Thailand because she was hoping to take a connecting flight to Australia. She also added that her passport was confiscated.

Days later, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Rahaf Alqunun will be allowed asylum in Canada under request from the UNHCR. Rahaf flew in from Seoul and landed in Toronto on Jan. 12 and had Canada’s foreign affair minister pick her up. Minister Freeland introduced Rahaf as “ as very brave new Canadian who has been through a lot.” Aqunun continued posting on twitter; her latest post included a celebratory picture on her flight from Seoul with the caption “I did it”. As for now, she is safe in her new home.