Teen refugee fleeing Saudi Arabia arrives in Toronto

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, 18, landed at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport on Saturday morning

Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, centre, stands with Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, right, as she arrives at Toronto Pearson International Airport, on Saturday, January 12, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

A Saudi teen described as a “brave new Canadian” by one of the federal government’s senior ministers has landed in Toronto after fleeing her allegedly abusive family.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, 18, landed at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport on Saturday morning aboard a flight from Seoul, South Korea, a day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his government would accept her as a refugee.

READ MORE: Trudeau says Canada has granted asylum to Saudi woman in Bangkok

Alqunun, wearing a hoodie emblazened with the word Canada, appeared briefly to reporters at the airport flanked by Foreign Affairs Minsiter Chrystia Freeland, who had her arm wrapped around the teen.

Freeland said the teen would not be offering any comments before heading to her “new home.”

“Rahaf wanted Canadians to see that she’s arrived,” Freeland said. “She’s a very brave young woman who’s been through a lot.”

The young woman fled her family while visiting Kuwait and flew to Bangkok, where she barricaded herself in an airport hotel and launched a Twitter campaign that drew global attention to her case.

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

Her father, who arrived in Bangkok not long before she left, has denied those allegations.

“I’m the girl who ran away to Thailand. I’m now in real danger because the Saudi Embassy is trying to force me to return,” said an English translation of one of her first posts to Twitter. Alqunun also wrote that she was afraid and that her family would kill her if she were returned home.

The Twitter hashtag #SaveRahaf ensued, and a photograph of her behind a door barricaded with a mattress was seen around the world.

Trudeau announced Friday that the United Nations High Commission for Refugees asked Canada to take Alqunun as a refugee, and Canada agreed.

“That is something that we are pleased to do because Canada is a country that understands how important it is to stand up for human rights, to stand up for women’s rights around the world,” Trudeau said.

But the move to accept Alqunun could serve to heighten tensions between Canada and Saudi Arabia.

In August, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman expelled Canada’s ambassador and withdrew his own envoy after Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland used Twitter to call for the release of women’s rights activists who had been arrested in the country.

The Saudis also sold Canadian investments and recalled their students from universities in Canada.

But Trudeau appeared unfazed by the possibility that the move could have ill effects, repeating that Canada stands up for human rights regardless of diplomatic consequences.

“This is part of a long tradition of Canada engaging constructively and positively in the world and working with our partners, allies and with the United Nations. And when the United Nations made a request of us that we grant Ms. Alqunun asylum, we accepted,” he said.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Princeton beautification project stalled

The city says new statues and gateways won’t arrive by Canada’s Day

Severe thunderstorm watch issued for Okanagan and Connector

Storms expected to develop this morning and intensify early in the afternoon

Chilliwack man charged in crash that killed Kelowna pregnant woman

Frank Tessman charged for 2018 Highway 1 accident where Kelowna elementary school teacher died

B.C. premier says Greyhound replacement news could come shortly

Province is working with the private sector to find a solution, says premier

Confusion over land ownership of property along Okanagan River Channel

There appears to be some confusion about ownership of two of the properties Coyote Cruises uses

Suspicious Rutland car fire has one woman think it was targeted

A family who raised their voice against the McCurdy Road house has car torched, is it connected?

Olympic skier from B.C. suing Alpine Canada after coach’s sex offences

Bertrand Charest was convicted in 2017 on 37 charges

Action imperative on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

Chief commissioner into national inquiry encourages governments, private sector to act

B.C. senior’s car vandalized for more than 18 months

Retired RCMP officer determined to catch ‘tagger.’

VIDEO: Driver doing laps in busy Vancouver intersections nets charges

Toyota Camry spotted doing laps in intersection, driving towards pedestrians

COLUMN: Imagine the possibilities at the library

Programs at Summerland Library promote reading among children

Summerland golfers compete in league games

Regular club events continue through the summer

NHL stars return to Okanagan for charity slo-pitch game

The Gorges/Comeau Homebase Chairty Tournament returns June 28 in Kelowna

Former Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo to retire

‘Bobby Lou’ calls it a career after 19 NHL seasons

Most Read