Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.

Asylum Seeker Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, smiles as she is introduced to the media at Toronto Pearson International Airport, alongside Canadian minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, right, on Jan. 12, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. Al-Qunun, a Saudi Arabian woman who fled her family saying she feared for her life, landed in Canada, after being granted asylum.
Cole Burston/Getty Images
Girls & Women

Saudi Teen Fleeing Her Family Has Been Granted Asylum as 'Brave New Canadian'


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Strict laws around the world stop women from receiving basic rights. Thanks to international recognition, Saudi teen Rahaf al-Qunun was granted asylum in Canada, where her new life awaits. You can join us on taking action on this issue here.

Saudi refugee Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun arrived safely in Toronto on Jan. 12, just one day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed that Canada would grant the 18-year-old asylum.

The United Nations recognized al-Qunun as a refugee last week after she fled her abusive family while on vacation in Kuwait. The teen boarded a plane to Bangkok, which was heading to Australia, but was stopped by Thai officials, who took her passport and held her in a hotel room.

It was then that she drew international support. Her social media campaign, with the hashtag #SaveRahaf, went viral — causing Thai officials to allow her to stay temporarily, as UN officials called for her protection, the Independent reported.

Take Action: Step Up to Support Migrants and Refugees!

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees granted her refugee status on Jan. 9,  prompting talks about asylum with countries like Canada and Australia.

Ultimately the teen chose Canada and the prime minister confirmed her request for asylum was granted.

"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 women's rights around the world," Trudeau said last Friday.

Qunun was met at the airport by Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on Saturday.

"This is a very brave new Canadian," Freeland told reporters.

The Saudi teen says that her family became abusive after she renounced Islam.

Related Stories Nov. 20, 2018 Saudi Arabian Women Are Wearing Their Clothes Inside Out to Protest Dress Codes

Renouncing Islam can be punishable by death in Saudi Arabia, and under the country’s Islamic male guardianship system, male relatives must provide their consent for women to do things like attend school, work, and travel.

Canada and Saudi Arabia have been at odds over the last year, specifically when it comes to issues of gender equality. In August, a dispute between Saudi Arabia and Canada resulted in the expulsion of Canada’s ambassador in Saudi Arabia, the cancellation of flights to Toronto, and the transfer of foreign students based in Canada.

This dispute was caused by a tweet posted by Freeland that expressed concern over a government crackdown that led to the detention of human rights activists, including women’s rights champion Samar Badawi.

The UNHCR commended Canada for its readiness to accept Qunun, but spokeswoman Lauren La Rose added that more needs to be done.

"Canada has been a great ally and leader in this area, but there needs to be more spaces so that women and girls or anyone that is vulnerable can find a safe third country to resettle in," La Rose said.