Trudeau: Saudi Teen Granted Asylum in Canada

Created: January 11, 2019 06:43 PM

REGINA, Sask. (AP) - An 18-year-old Saudi woman fleeing alleged abuse by her family left Thailand on Friday night for Canada, which has granted her asylum, officials said.

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Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun is flying to Toronto via Seoul, South Korea, said Thai immigration officials. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed that his country had granted her asylum.

"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 and to stand up for woman's rights around the world and I can confirm that we have accepted the U.N.'s request," Trudeau said.

Alqunun's case has highlighted the cause of women's rights in Saudi Arabia. Several female Saudis fleeing abuse by their families have been caught trying to seek asylum abroad in recent years and returned home. Human rights activists say many similar cases have gone unreported.

Alqunun was stopped Jan. 5 at a Bangkok airport by immigration police who denied her entry and seized her passport. She barricaded herself in an airport hotel room and launched a social media campaign that drew global attention. It got enough public and diplomatic support to convince Thai officials to admit her temporarily under the protection of U.N. officials, who granted her refugee status Wednesday.

Giving her asylum could further upset Saudi-Canada relations.

On Friday, Trudeau avoided answering a question about what the case would mean for Saudi relations, but he said Canada will unequivocally always stand up for human rights and woman's rights around the world.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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