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Canada grants asylum to Saudi woman who fled her family: NPR

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun is said to have boarded a plane Friday in Bangkok heading for Canada, where she has been granted asylum.

Sakchai Lalit / AP

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Sakchai Lalit / AP

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun is said to have aboard an aircraft Friday in Bangkok on his way to Canada, where she has been granted asylum.

Sakchai Lalit / AP

Canada has granted asylum to the 18-year-old Saudi woman who barricaded herself in a hotel in Bangkok after releasing what she called abuse and repression of family members.

"UNHCR has requested Canada to accept Alqunun as a refugee, and we have accepted the UN's request that we grant her asylum," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Friday with reference to UN Refugee Commissioner

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun has planned a flight in Bangkok on board and was expected to fly to Canada, announced the Thai Immigration Police The Associated Press on Friday, Australia had said it was considering offering her asylum, but a UNHCR spokesman suggested in an email to NPR that Ottawa moved faster.

"When we refer to cases with specific vulnerabilities that need immediate resettlement, we attach great importance to the speed at which countries consider and deal with cases," wrote Babar Baloch.

Alqunun had been on holiday with her family in Kuwait earlier this month when she was glimpse and took a flight to Bangkok, NPR reports. She landed Saturday and planned to fly from there to Australia.

In Bangkok, Thai agents stopped Alqunun at the airport and grabbed her passport. Alqunun hid in a hotel in a transit salon and began tweeting in Arabic about her situation.

"I'm the girl who ran in Thailand. I'm now in real danger because the Saudi embassy is trying to force me to return

The Egyptian-American activist Mona Eltahawy translated tweets into English, and within A few days, Alqunun gathered thousands of followers.

"I do not leave my room until I see the UNHCR [the U.N. refugee agency]," she said in a video excerpt . "I want asylum."

She said She received physical abuse in the hands of family members, claiming that they had tried to marry her against her will. Alqunun's family has so far not publicly commented on the allegations.

Her tweets attracted the attention of the UN, the Australian Government and the reporters. her refugee status, and Australia's Interior Ministry told the NPR that Australia would "consider this reference [for refugee resettlement] in the usual way, as it applies to all UNHCRs. Referrals. "

Alqunun temporarily deactivated his Twitter account due to death threats, according to a friend. It resumed late on Friday, and she put up photos of herself with her green Saudi passport aboard a flight.

"3rd Country", she wrote, apparently referring to Canada. "I did it."

Alqunun's successful gambit will be renewed attention to Saudi women's treatment of women.

Saudi Arabia maintains a male authority system. Every Saudi woman must have a male relative – like a father, uncle or even son – who approves major life decisions such as marriage, work, study, and travel. Last year, Saudi Arabia gave women the right to drive, but was then arrested by more than a dozen female activists who had driven to the right, reports NPR's Deborah Amos.