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Saudi teenager Al-Qunun lands in Canada

Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun (C) is welcomed by Canadian Minister for Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland (R) as she arrives at Pearson International airport in Toronto

A young Saudi woman, Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, who caused an international sensation as she sought asylum abroad arrived in Toronto Saturday where she was welcomed with open arms.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland greeted al-Qunun, 18, after she landed in Toronto, wearing a blue ball cap and a gray hoodie emblazoned in red with the word “CANADA.”

She posed for photographers with Freeland at her side, but made no statement.

“She had a pretty long journey and is exhausted and prefers not to take questions for the moment,” Freeland said.

Al-Qunun grabbed international attention this week after she barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room to resist being sent home to her family, which denies any abuse.

Qunun refused to meet her father and brother, who arrived in Bangkok to try take her back to Saudi Arabia

Her case drew global attention to Saudi Arabia’s strict social rules, including a requirement that women have the permission of a male “guardian” to travel, which rights groups say can trap women and girls as prisoners of abusive families.

Qunun took a Korean Air flight from Bangkok to Seoul on Friday and then a connecting flight to Toronto.

Qunun arrived in Bangkok a week ago and was initially denied entry. But she soon started posting messages on Twitter from the transit area of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport saying she had “escaped Kuwait” and her life would be in danger if forced to return to Saudi Arabia.

Within hours, a campaign sprang up dubbed #SaveRahaf, spread on Twitter by a loose network of activists.

Following a 48-hour stand-off at Bangkok airport, some of it barricaded in a transit lounge hotel room, she was allowed to enter the country and has been processed as a refugee by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

*AFP and Reuters

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