Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun holds a mobile phone in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. Alqunun, the 18-year old Saudi woman who fled her family to seek asylum, remains in Thailand under the care of the U.N. refugee agency as she awaits a decision by a third country to accept her as a refugee. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Canada helping young Saudi refugee won’t hurt Raif Badawi’s case, wife says

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun was fleeing her abusive family

The Canadian wife of imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi said she isn’t worried Ottawa’s decision to take in teen refugee Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun will hurt her husband’s case, despite speculation that the incident could further strain Canada-Saudi relations.

Ensaf Haidar said the Canadian government did the right thing in granting refugee status to the 18-year-old woman who drew global attention after fleeing her allegedly abusive family.

“I’m happy for her,” Haidar said in a phone interview. “I’m very proud of Canada, too. That’s what a democratic country is.”

Haidar, who lives in Quebec with her three children, said she didn’t believe Canada’s acceptance of Alqunun would hurt her husband’s chances of release, because the two cases are “very different.”

Alqunun landed in Toronto on Saturday, after gaining international prominence after she fled her family on a trip to Kuwait and flew to Bangkok, where she barricaded herself in an airport hotel and launched a Twitter campaign outlining allegations of abuse against her relatives.

Alqunun said her father physically abused her and tried to force her into an arranged marriage.

The young woman landed in Canada on what was a symbolic week for Badawi, who was arrested on June 17, 2012, and was later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for his criticism of Saudi clerics.

Sunday was the blogger’s 35th birthday, and last week marked three years since he received 50 lashes in January 2015 during a public flogging.

He is not believed to have received any more corporal punishment since then.

Some have suggested Canada’s decision to accept Alqunun could heighten tensions that peaked over the summer when Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman expelled Canada’s ambassador and withdrew his own envoy after Canada’s foreign affairs minister used Twitter to call for the release of arrested women’s rights activists.

But other experts, such as University of Waterloo professor Bessma Momani, have said the relationship with the Saudi government has deteriorated to the point where the decision to accept Alqunun no longer poses much risk.

VIDEO: Foreign affairs minister welcomes ‘brave new Canadian’ as Saudi teen arrives in Toronto

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said Canada would stand up for human rights regardless of diplomatic consequences.

Haidar said she hasn’t met Alqunun, but she’s followed her case on social media and advocated for Canada to accept her.

Haidar is also one of three people who started a GoFundMe page to help raise money to help Alqunun begin her new life.

Haidar, now a prominent human rights activist, says she’s not giving up on her husband’s release either.

Later this week she is scheduled to meet with Trudeau, where she’ll once again press him to grant Badawi Canadian citizenship.

Roxanne Ocampo, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Out with a roar: Dinosaurs take over forest at Surrey school on last week of class

Six colourful creatures painted by Grade 3 students led youngsters on an expedition in the outdoor classroom

Animal advocates yowl after Delta cat severely injured in trap

Blu, a three-year-old house cat, suffered severe damage to his hind leg after being stuck in trap for days

Surrey city council cost taxpayers nearly $1M in 2018

That includes more than $151,372 in expenses from the former council

The end is near for North Surrey rec centre, meaning programs will move to other facilities within 4km

Plan is for the site of the aging rec centre to become mixed-use ‘Centre Block’ development

Street dance competition outdoors in Surrey on first day of summer break

DJ, prizes, activities, a food truck and more Friday at Surrey City Hall Plaza

SQUEEZING SURREY STUDENTS IN: The causes and impacts of overcrowding in city schools

Special series: How growth is affecting students, parents and school staff alike – and what the future holds

Fate of accused in Canadian couple’s 1987 killings in jury’s hands

William Talbott’s lawyer says DNA doesn’t prove murder

Child killed after being hit in driveway on Vancouver Island

The driver of the vehicle remained at the crash scene and is fully cooperating

Eating sandwiches, putting on makeup behind the wheel could land you a fine

RCMP say if you cause an accident while eating you could be penalized

Cat badly hurt in animal trap was likely stuck for days, B.C. owner says

Blu, a three-year-old house cat, suffered severe damage to his hind leg after being stuck in trap for days

40 cats surrendered in apparent hoarding at B.C. home

Officers found the cats living among piles of garbage and feces, suffering from fleas

Vancouver Aquarium drops cetacean ban lawsuit in new lease agreement

Ocean Wise CEO Lasse Gustavsson called the updated lease an exciting new chapter for the aquarium

Plane veers off runway, into ditch at Langley Airport

Fire, ambulance, and police are on scene

Okanagan RCMP bike patrol rolls up on alleged stolen vehicle from Burnaby

The driver, a 30-year-old Kelowna man, has been held in custody and is facing possible charges of possession of stolen property and obstructing a police officer

Most Read