Saudi teen adjusts to her new life in Canada – and temperatures of 16F – after escaping her family as Riyadh-funded group condemns countries for ‘inciting’ women to flee
- Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, fled her family fearing they would kill her
- She arrived in Canada this weekend after two weeks in limbo in Thailand
- Ms al-Qunun was greeted with flowers by Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland
- She smiled and waved as she walked into the airport with a ‘CANADA’ hoodie on
- Selfie posted Sunday shows her all wrapped up in the freezing temperatures
- Riyadh-backed group slam countries who ‘incite Saudi females to rebel’
The 18-year-old Saudi girl who fled her family fearing they would kill her after she rejected Islam has begun adapting to life in her new home country of Canada.
Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, arrived in Toronto on Saturday after Canada granted her asylum on the advice of the United Nations’ refugee agency.
A selfie taken by Ms al-Qunun on Sunday shows her wrapped up warm in a black winter jacket and woolly hat to protect herself against the chilly 16F (-9C) weather.
The below freezing temperatures are clearly a far cry from what she is used to, and she captioned the image with three sad face emojis.
New style: Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, has begun adapting to life in Canada after being granted asylum, with a photo showing her all bundled up in a winter jacket and woolly hat
Safe arrival: The teenager arrived in Canada this weekend, after fleeing her home country earlier this month – allegedly to escape her abusive family
Ms al-Qunun, accompanied by Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, right, and Saba Abbas, general counsellor of COSTI refugee service agency, left, arrives at Toronto Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Ontario
Ms al-Qunun garnered support around the world after barricading herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room earlier this month to resist being sent home to her family whom she claims had threatened her life and to force her to marry against her will.
However, despite global praise for her bravery and for Canada’s decision to grant her asylum, one Saudi organisation backed by the Riyadh government has issued thinly veiled critique on the matter.
Without naming Ms al-Qunun, The National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) accused several foreign countries of inciting young women to reject their families.
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NSHR head Mufleh al-Qahtani accused unspecified countries and international organisations of pursuing political agendas and ‘pushing (women) ultimately to be lost and maybe to fall into the arms of brokers and human traffickers’.
NSHR ‘was surprised by some countries’ incitement of some Saudi female delinquents to rebel against the values of their families and push them out of the country and seek to receive them under the pretext of granting them asylum,’ Qahtani said.
He did not name Canada or Australia, which also considered offering Qunun asylum, or the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which granted her refugee status.
Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, arrives at Pearson International airport in Toronto, Ontario on Saturday
Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland (right) greeted Ms al-Qunun, after she landed in Toronto on Saturday morning
From her personal Twitter account, al-Qunun thanked everyone for their support, saying she had never ‘dreamed of this love’
Al-Qunun shared photos to Twitter from her flight to Toronto, showing her relaxing in first class with wine and her legs up
Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland greeted al-Qunun when she arrived in Toronto on Saturday, wearing a blue ball cap and a gray hoodie emblazoned in red with the word ‘CANADA.’
Ms al-Qunun shared a snap on social media of her in first class enjoying a glass of wine as she jetted off to Canada as a refugee
Ms Freeland told reporters with her arm around the teen: ‘This is Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun a very brave new Canadian.’
Speaking about the teenager last week, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: ‘Canada has been unequivocal that we’ll stand up for human rights and women’s rights around the world.
‘When the United Nations made a request of us that we grant Ms al-Qunun’s asylum, we accepted.’
Ms al-Qunun is the daughter of a Saudi governor and has nine siblings. She used a loophole in the state’s tough laws to travel to Kuwait unaccompanied.
From there, she purchased a ticket to Bangkok and was hoping to seek asylum in Canada, the United States, Australia, the UK or ‘any nation would protect her from being harmed or killed by her family’.
Ms al-Qunun walks through sliding doors as she beams alongside officials at Toronto Pearson
Canada is now the new home for Saudi refugee Ms al-Qunun (pictured) after Canada answered a request by the UNHCR
Ms al-Qunun (pictured) previously reacted to news Australia was considering granting her asylum, saying, ‘Is it true??? Australia wants me to go there??? I’m so happy’
The 18-year-old (pictured with her 12-year-old sister Joud) said she had ‘escaped Kuwait’ and that her life would be in danger if she were forced to return to Saudi Arabia
The 18-year-old was detained in Thailand following her arrival in the country. She is pictured having barricaded herself in an airport hotel room in a bid to avoid deportation
Instead, her passport was seized by a Saudi diplomat and she was forced to lock herself in an apartment room.
She says she spent months planning her escape before implementing her dangerous plan on January 5.
She barricaded herself in an airport hotel room where her social media campaign got enough public and diplomatic support that Thai officials admitted her temporarily under the protection of U.N. officials, who granted her refugee status Wednesday.
UNHCR spokeswoman Lauren La Rose said the fact she was processed so quickly is a credit to those that made it happen.
‘This is someone who was clearly in harm’s way, who clearly felt her life with her threatened, and my colleagues in concert with governments in Thailand and Canada recognized that need,’ she said
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