In Canada, Saudi girl says couldn't ‘study, work, live normally’ at home
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In Canada, Saudi girl says couldn't ‘study, work, live normally’ at home

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, attracted the attention of the media as well as rights groups earlier this month when she barricaded herself in a Bangkok transit lounge hotel room after fleeing her family on January 5. She said at the time that she had suffered physical and psychological abuse at the hands of her family members and alleged they had tried to marry her off against her will, fearing that she would be in real danger if she was forced to return home. “I’m afraid, my family WILL kill me,” she tweeted at the time. ‘The risk was worth it!’ On a request by the United Nations (UN)’s refugee agency, Canada on Friday granted the Saudi girl asylum. In her new home, she said she had been freed from the shackles imposed by the Riyadh regime on women. Being in Canada is “a very good feeling,” Qunun said during an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) on Monday night, two days after arriving in Toronto from Bangkok. “It’s something that is worth the risk I took,” she said, sitting in a classroom at a refugee center in downtown Toronto, where she had been greeted by the Canadian foreign minister and a phalanx of journalists on her arrival at the Toronto international airport on Saturday morning. Qunun also said that she wanted to take English classes and go to college to study architecture, wondering how to harness her newly-found media stardom. In the course of less than two weeks, she has gone from the highly restricted life of a woman in Hail, a city in Saudi Arabia’s northwestern part, to the life of an independent woman on the other side of the globe. “I felt that I could not achieve my dreams that I wanted as long as I was still living in Saudi Arabia,” Qunun said, adding that she felt that she “was reborn” in her new home. In Canada, “I will try things I haven’t tried. I will learn things I didn’t learn,” she further said in her CBC interview. Saudi wrath? Meanwhile, Qunun’s fleeing Saudi Arabia and receiving asylum from Canada seem to have infuriated Riyadh. On Monday, Ahmad al-Jamiyah, the former deputy editor-in-chief of the pro-government Saudi daily newspaper Al Riyadh, said that Saudi Arabia had to expand Article 13 of the constitution so that the citizenship of all who receive political asylum from other countries and criticize the Saudi regime is revoked. He stressed in an article, titled “The Revocation of Citizenship,” that the new modified version of Article 13 had to include all who “damage the reputation” of the Arab kingdom, mentioning Qunun by name as the latest such case. Ottawa’s decision to grant the Saudi girl asylum comes at a delicate time. Canadian-Saudi relations have been strained since Ottawa demanded the immediate release of jailed activists in the Arab kingdom last year. In response, Saudi Arabia froze new trade with Canada and forced many Saudi students in the North American country to return home.

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