Young Saudi asylum-seeker arrives in Canada to official welcome

Rahaf Mohammed Al Qunun is met by Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland at the airport in Toronto

Rahaf Mohammed Al Qunun is met by Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland at the airport in Toronto

Rahaf's swift use of Twitter saw her amass more than 100,000 followers within a week, highlighting her plight and allowing her to avoid the fate of countless other refugees who are quietly sent back home or languish in Bangkok detention centres.

The Canada-Saudi Arabia relations have soured after a diplomatic row which was sparked by the Canadian government's call for the immediate release of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi and his sister Samar via Twitter on August 5, 2018.

Earlier Friday, Thailand's immigration police chief said 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun had left on a flight headed for Canada.

"It was a pleasure for me this morning to welcome to her new home a very fearless new Canadian", Freeland said. Last year, Saudi Arabia gave women the right to drive, but then arrested more than a dozen women activists who had pushed for the right, NPR's Deborah Amos reports. She later said Australia was assessing Qunun's resettlement request.

"We have nothing new to add on this right now", said a spokesman for Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian foreign minister.

Australia had said on Wednesday that it was considering taking in Qunun.

Freeland, however, heaped praise on the young woman who shot to fame through her social media campaign to flee her family.

Ms al-Qunun said she would be departing for her new home "soon" and has been assigned an apartment in an unknown town or city.

Canada has repeatedly said Khashoggi's murder was unacceptable and demanded a full explanation.

The saga of Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun grabbed global attention this week after she barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room to resist being sent home to her family, which denies any abuse.

The acceptance of the teen could further damage Saudi Arabia's relationship with Canada.

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

The 18-year-old's fight against deportation from Thailand as she tried to claim asylum captivated a global audience through her Twitter account, which now has almost 150,000 followers.

Earlier, Gen Surachate told reporters Friday that "two or three" countries were ready to offer her asylum. He said Qunun's father wanted his daughter back but respected her decision.

The decision is likely to exacerbate Canada's already poor relations with Saudi Arabia, which a year ago barred the Canadian ambassador to Riyadh after Ottawa criticized Saudi authorities for detaining women's' activists.

"This is so much a victory for everyone who cares about respecting and promoting women's rights, valuing the independence of youth to forge their own way, and demanding governments operate in the light and not darkness", he said in a statement. "He said the daughter might feel neglected sometimes", Surachate said. The Saudis also sold Canadian investments and ordered their citizens studying in Canada to leave.

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