OTTAWA—Canada will grant refugee standing to a younger Saudi girl who renounced Islam and barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport lodge to keep away from being deported, a call that threatens to intensify tensions between Ottawa and Riyadh.
Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, who’s 18 years previous, attracted worldwide consideration this week after she posted on Twitter that Saudi officers at a Bangkok airport had seized her passport. Ms. Alqunun arrived in Bangkok on Jan. 5 after slipping away from her household throughout a trip in Kuwait.
In the course of the standoff, Ms. Alqunun advised The Wall Avenue Journal and different media retailers that she had supposed to fly to Australia, and was afraid her household would kill her if she was despatched again to the Center East. She additionally requested Canada to grant her asylum in a sequence of messages on Twitter that rapidly went viral in an improvised social-media marketing campaign to make sure her security.
As world consideration mounted, Thailand relented, permitting Ms. Alqunun to talk with officers from the United Nations Excessive Commissioner for Refugees.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau mentioned Friday that Canada granted her asylum on the U.N.’s request. “That’s one thing that we’re happy to do as a result of Canada is a rustic that understands how essential it’s to face up for human rights, to face up for girls’s rights around the globe,” Mr. Trudeau mentioned at a information convention in Regina, Saskatchewan.
Representatives from the Saudi authorities and the Saudi Embassy in Canada didn’t reply to requests to remark Friday.
Relations between Ottawa and Riyadh have been strained since August, when Canada’s overseas ministry despatched a tweet calling on Saudi officers to right away launch human-rights activists who had been jailed. Saudi Arabia mentioned on the time that it considered these remarks, which had been additionally translated into Arabic, as an unacceptable interference in its inner affairs. It expelled Canada’s ambassador to the dominion and instructed Saudi college students in Canada to make preparations to depart.
Dennis Horak, Canada’s former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, mentioned the dominion would doubtless take a look at Canada’s choice to simply accept Ms. Alqunun as one other instance of interference within the kingdom’s inner affairs. “It’s not going to be useful [to the diplomatic relationship], that’s for positive,” mentioned Mr. Horak, who was declared persona non grata by Saudi Arabia final August.
Canada can also be amongst a number of international locations which have known as for an investigation into the dying of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed on the Saudi Consulate in Turkey final yr.
Thomas Juneau, a professor on the College of Ottawa, mentioned there may be nonetheless scope for relations between Saudi Arabia and Canada to deteriorate additional as a result of embassies in each international locations stay open and commerce was largely unaffected by final yr’s diplomatic spat. He mentioned additional escalation appears unlikely at this level, however cautioned that Saudi Arabia has turn out to be much less predictable in recent times beneath Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The UNHCR mentioned Friday it welcomes Canada’s choice, including that Ms. Alqunun was en path to Canada. No different particulars about her arrival had been accessible. The company mentioned it accelerated processing of Ms. Alqunun’s case as a result of it was deemed pressing.
Ms. Alqunun boarded a flight to Seoul late on Friday night and he or she was then scheduled to fly to Toronto, Thailand’s immigration chief mentioned at a information convention at Bangkok’s foremost airport. The official, Police Normal Surachate Hakparn, described her as decided. “She selected Canada for private causes. She advised me the very first thing she needs to do when she arrives in Canada is to be taught the language,” Gen. Surachate mentioned.
Gen. Surachate mentioned each Canadian and Australian representatives interviewed Ms. Alqunun after a UNHCR official designated her a refugee, however that she selected Canada. Her father and brother flew to Thailand in a bid to influence authorities to return Ms. Alqunun to them.
She beforehand described in a Twitter message change how her household had locked her in a room for six months for reducing her hair. She mentioned she longed to flee Saudi Arabia’s strict, patriarchal tradition, pointing to the discrimination girls proceed to face there.
Gen. Surachate mentioned Ms. Alqunun’s father, whom he described as a provincial governor, denied abusing her.
Bessma Momani, a senior fellow on the Middle for Worldwide Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ontario, mentioned there seems to be well-liked assist in Canada for accepting Ms. Alqunun as a refugee, and the choice to take action might mirror effectively on Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal authorities, which has prided itself on taking a feminist and human-rights method to overseas coverage.