Canada's acceptance of Saudi teen sparks debate on women's freedom


Mufleh Al-Qahtani, the head of the Saudi National Society for Human Rights, said Canada's action was "an attack on the rights of the families of these girls, who are severely harmed by the defamation following their daughters' action that pushes them into the unknown".

Haidar, who lives in Quebec with her three children, said she didn't believe Canada's acceptance of Alqunun would hurt her husband's chances of release, because the two cases are "very different".

Mohammed, 18, made worldwide headlines after she barricaded herself in an airport hotel room in Thailand's capital Bangkok to avoid being sent home to her family due to fears of being harmed or killed.

Alqunun said her father physically abused her and tried to force her into an arranged marriage.

The Canadian wife of imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi said she isn't anxious Ottawa's decision to take in teen refugee Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun will hurt her husband's case, despite speculation that the incident could further strain Canada-Saudi relations. She would like to now live "like any other young woman" in Canada.

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Reflecting on her own experience, she said: "I was not treated respectfully by my family and not allowed to be myself and who I want to be".

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

While her success may encourage others facing a similar plight to seek asylum, there are too many variables at play to know how they would be received, experts in refugee settlement said, adding the vast majority of cases take years to process. She said she would not be doing more media interviews for the time being.

"I think we need to redouble our advocacy globally about making sure that our women are not subject to violence", Mr Shorten said.

"My life was in danger and I felt I had nothing to lose". I hope my story encourages other women to be courageous and free. Her decision was announced Tuesday at a news conference in Toronto, where Mohammed read a statement from a piece of paper.

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Mohammed took to social media, asking for help as she barricaded herself in an airport hotel room. She narrated the mistreatment by her family. "I have not seen the threats, but she said yes, she was feeling unsafe, so we have taken those measures".

Since arriving in Canada, she has dropped her last name, instead using Mohammed, saying her family has disowned her.

Saudi women are dominated by guardianship laws, which require them to have the consent of a male guardian in order to fulfill basic needs such as securing a passport, undergoing some medical procedures, or conducting any official business matters.

From now on, she will be known as Rahaf Mohammed.

Horak was ousted as ambassador last summer after a tweet by Global Affairs Canada condemning the arrests of civil rights activists incensed Saudi Arabia to withdraw investment in Canada, halt Saudi-owned flights to the country and advise post-secondary students to come home. "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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