Saudi teen granted asylum in Canada to speak publicly in Toronto today


Her father, a Saudi Arabian governor, and the rest of her family released a statement yesterday disowning her and referring to her as "mentally unstable".

Now, she said, she can make her "own decisions", including about travel and marriage.

Al-Qunun escaped her family on January 5 and planned to claim asylum in Australia via a connecting flight to Bangkok.

Mohammed took to social media, asking for help as she barricaded herself in an airport hotel room.

From now on, she will be known as Rahaf Mohammed. Saudi Arabia retaliated by freezing new trade with Ottawa and forcing many of its students to return to the kingdom. "They can't be independent and need approval of their male guardian for everything". "Any woman who thinks of escaping, or escapes, will be at risk of persecution".

"I was not treated respectfully by my family and I was not allowed to be myself or who I want to be".

"I had no say in any of this". "Today I can proudly say that I am capable of making all of those decisions".

"I hope my story encourages other women to be fearless and free", the 18-year-old told Australia's ABC news channel, in her first interview since arriving on Canadian soil. "I felt that I could not achieve my dreams that I wanted as long as I was still living in Saudi Arabia".

A Saudi teenager who fled her native country and was recently accepted into Canada has been given a bodyguard amid fears for her safety.

"Refugee protection today is often under threat and can not always be assured, but in this instance global refugee law and overriding values of humanity have prevailed". "This might be the agent for change".

Some have linked the Canadian government's motives for accepting Mohammed to its recent diplomatic standoff with Saudi Arabia.

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When she walked through the airport door in Toronto, and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland was there to greet her, "I felt free, and it was like I was born again", she told ABC.

Some have also raised questions about the alleged preferential treatment Mohammed received.

"As you know, in Saudi Arabia this is the case for all Saudi women, except for those that are fortunate enough to have understanding parents", Mohammad's statement read.

Mohammed is in Canada as a government-assisted refugee, which means she will have the government's financial support for "typically up to 12 months", Mario Calla, executive director of COSTI Immigrant Services, said at a press conference on Tuesday.

She will also start English classes before she considers how to further her education.

Calla said she has completed high school and had expressed interest in taking civil engineering in university.

"She has had threats on social media".

"She has taken a position that some take issue with". Friends of al-Qunun said she briefly suspended her Twitter account because of death threats.

She said she hoped her story would act as an inspiration for other women in Saudi Arabia oppressed by the guardianship laws.

"I imagined it would be a hard and perhaps frightening moment and it might make a difference for her personally to feel she had the personal and welcome support of our government".