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Canada pressured Thailand to protect Saudi woman

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Canada played a role in convincing the Thai government not to send an asylum-seeking woman back to Saudi Arabia against her wishes, says Human Rights Watch.


Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, is now in talks with the United Nations refugee agency after spending the weekend barricading herself in a Bangkok airport hotel over fears the Thai government would send her home, where she says she would face violence from her family. 


She told reporters she fled Kuwait while her family was visiting the Gulf country and had planned to travel from Thailand to Australia to seek asylum, but was detained on a stopover in Bangkok. 


Stefano Maron, spokesperson for Global Affairs, said Canada is "very concerned by and watching closely the situation of Ms. Rahaf al-Qunun.


"We are in close contact with partners about her situation," Maron said in an email. "Canada will always stand up for human rights, very much including women's rights."


Canada beefing with Saudi Arabia is a good thing in this situation. If Thailand sent her back home she would likely be executed or imprisoned for life.

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The Saudi teenager who fled her family and was granted asylum in Canada said Tuesday that she was fortunate to have escaped.

But many other young women in Saudi Arabia like her are not able to get away and take control of their lives, Rahaf Mohammed, 18, said at a press conference Tuesday.

"I am one of the lucky ones. I know there are unlucky women who disappeared after trying to escape, or who could not do anything to change their reality," she said.

"I was not treated respectfully by my family, and I was not allowed to be myself and who I want to be," she added. "As you know, in Saudi Arabia, this is the case for all Saudi women except for those fortunate enough to have understanding parents. They can't be independent, and they need approval from their male guardian. Any woman who thinks of escaping or escaped will be at risk of persecution."


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