Millennium Post

The Saudi teen's fairy tale

The Saudi teens fairy tale

It has been a fairy tale ending for the Saudi teen, Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, who finally arrived in Canada after being offered asylum there. But all this happened after her amazing display of grit and determination. Quite simply, it would have been a ghastly death had her efforts failed. But her coming out with all the relevant details on social media and her determination to prevail over all odds and her "impending fate" brought her and so many great relief. There was, understandably, a good deal of confusion over where she would be resettled. Canadian PM Justin Trudeau later said his nation had accepted the request made by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, who was there at the airport to receive Rahaf. Canada's decision to offer asylum to the girl may do little to mend relations with Saudi Arabia, which nosedived last summer after officials in Ottawa accused the kingdom of human rights violations and demanded the release of imprisoned activists. Saudi Arabia responded by freezing new trade and investment deals, suspending flights to Canada, reassigning students studying there and expelling Canada's ambassador to Saudi Arabia while recalling its own. Qunun flew to Thailand from Kuwait to escape her family, saying she feared they would kill her because she renounced Islam. She had intended to fly on to Australia but barricaded herself in a hotel room in Bangkok's main airport after Thai immigration officials attempted to deport her back to the Middle East. In response to the media campaign, Thai authorities allowed Qunun access to the UNHCR and did not deport her to Kuwait. "3rd country," she said, in a reference to resettlement in Canada. "I did it." She also thanked the supporters she said had saved her life. "Truly I have never dreamed of this love and support," she said. It is not an automatic right for refugees to be resettled and fewer than one per cent of the millions of registered refugees globally were resettled in 2017, according to the UNHCR. It welcomed Canada's decision to "provide international protection and a long-term solution" for Qunun as a resettled refugee. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said the Saudi teenager's plight had highlighted the precarious situation faced by millions of refugees worldwide. Qunun's story has also put Saudi Arabia's male guardianship system, which restricts many aspects of women's lives, back under international scrutiny. Qunun had continued to refuse to meet with her father and brother before leaving Thailand. What really matters is the fact that she is safe, in good health and good mental health too. Elated as she surely must be, she looks happy.

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