SUNDAY TIMES WEB DESK: Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, was already en route to Toronto late Friday when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would take her in.
Trudeau’s surprise announcement came after officials had heavily hinted that she was bound for Australia.
“Canada has been unequivocal that we’ll stand up for human rights and women’s rights around the world,” Trudeau said. “When the United Nations made a request of us that we grant al-Qunun’s asylum, we accepted.”
The move is sure to further strain Canada’s relations with the kingdom that went sideways last August over Ottawa’s rights criticism of Saudi Arabia, prompting Riyadh to expel the Canadian ambassador and sever all trade and investment ties in protest.
Thai authorities initially threatened to deport her after she arrived in Bangkok from Kuwait last weekend.
But armed with a smartphone and hastily opened Twitter account, she forced a U-turn from Thai immigration police who handed her into the care of the UN’s refugee agency as the #SaveRahaf hashtag bounced across the world.
“Ms. al-Qunun’s plight has captured the world’s attention over the past few days, providing a glimpse into the precarious situation of millions of refugees worldwide,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said.
“Refugee protection today is often under threat and cannot always be assured, but in this instance international refugee law and overriding values of humanity have prevailed.”