Saudi teen who fled family hopes her experience inspires others

Saudi teen who fled family hopes her experience inspires others
Safe in her new home, runaway Saudi teen says coming to Canada worth the risk
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18 January, 2019

The Saudi teenager, who drew worldwide headlines after fleeing an abusive family situation, landed in Toronto over the weekend after the Canadian government accepted the United Nations' request to grant her asylum and fast-tracked her resettlement.

A Saudi teen who arrived in Canada after fleeing her family says she needed to risk her life in order to live freely and be independent, and is very happy to be here.

She told Human Rights Watch that she had fled abuse from her family, alleging she had suffered beatings and death threats from male relatives who forced her to remain in her room for six months after she cut her hair.

The United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) granted her refugee status, and Canada agreed to take her in.

When she walked through the airport door in Toronto, and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland was there to greet her, "I felt free, and it was like I was born again", she told ABC.

On Tuesday, she shared a picture on Snapchat of her breakfast of Canadian-style bacon and eggs captioned "Omg bacon" with heart emojis and the Canada flag. She has left Islam and she basically has broken away from her family, and that scares her, ' he added. The Saudi runaway, 18, arrived arm-in-arm with the country's foreign minister, smiling broadly while exiting the terminal wearing a Canada hoodie.

When asked why she had fled her homeland, she said: "I wanted to be free from abuse and depression". She added that she was exposed to physical violence, persecution, oppression, threats to be killed.

Standing in front of a large Canadian flag at the Toronto offices of refugee resettling agency Costi, Qunun denounced Saudi Arabia's strict male guardianship rules, saying: "I am one of the lucky ones".

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"My life was in danger and I felt I had nothing to lose", al-Qunun said. "Today I can proudly say that I am capable of making all those decisions".

Meanwhile, Ms Alqunun's family has publicly disowned her, with her father - a Saudi governor - calling his daughter "mentally unstable" and "insulting".

Mohammed is expected to make a public statement to Canadians on Tuesday.

Mohammed took to social media, asking for help as she barricaded herself in an airport hotel room.

"Women in Saudi Arabia are treated like children, even if they are 50 or 60 years old".

"The Saudi administration controls a woman's life - her job and position", Alqunun said. "She went to the mall and basically got some winter clothes because she thought she was going to go to Australia so she had a short skirt", he said, noting there was no time for her to buy new clothes in Thailand. "I would like to start living a normal private life, just like any other young woman living in Canada", she said in the statement read by Saba Abbas.

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.


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