Saudi teen granted asylum in Canada

Kalerkantho Online   

12 January, 2019 09:16 AM

Saudi teen granted asylum in Canada

Qunun, seen here at a UN building before leaving Bangkok, is en route to Toronto via Seoul/UNHCR

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A Saudi woman who fled her family and became stranded at Bangkok's main airport is flying to Canada after being granted asylum status.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, had been trying to reach Australia via Bangkok, but was initially told to return to Kuwait, where her family were waiting.

She refused to fly back and barricaded herself into her airport hotel room, attracting international attention. She said she had renounced Islam, which is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia, reports BBC.

The UN's refugee agency has said it considers her to be a legitimate refugee. Refugee status is normally granted by governments, but the UNHCR can grant it where states are "unable or unwilling to do so", according to its website.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters: "Canada has been unequivocal that we will always stand up for human rights and women's rights around the world. When the UN made a request of us that we grant Ms al-Qunun asylum, we accepted."

Canada has previously angered Saudi Arabia after calling for the release of detained women's rights activists in the country - prompting Riyadh to expel Canada's ambassador and freeze all new trade.