Saudi Teen Drops Surname After Given Asylum In Canada; Receives Protection After Threats
January 17th, 2019 / 6:11 PM
Image Credits: Ashoka News
Rahaf Mohammed Al-Qunun, the teenager who fled Saudi Arabia to escape her abusive family, will now be called Rahaf Mohammed after she dropped her surname. At a conference in Toronto, her decision was announced.
Rahaf drops her surname, receives protection
“I would like to start by saying thank you,” she said. “I am one of the lucky ones. I know there are unlucky women who disappeared after trying to escape or could not do anything to change their reality.”
The 18-year-old had escaped her family while they were on a holiday in Kuwait, and had caught the world’s attention. She sought asylum as she said her family would kill her if she was sent back. She had posted on Twitter that her family had abused her and treated her like a slave. Finally, she got asylum in Canada.
She said that she expects the number of women to flee the country to increase, and urged women to be brave. She talked of Saudi Arabia where patriarchy rules and women are abused regularly. Following Rahaf’s outspoken criticism, a Saudi lobbying group founder warned Canada that there could be diplomatic consequences, reported NDTV.
After the Saudi teen received threats to her life, a security guard has been hired by the Toronto agency helping her, according to its executive director.
Rahaf, according to Mario Calla, executive director of Costi, the refugee agency that Canada contracted, has been receiving various threats online, reported NDTV. “Costi has hired a security guard and plans to ‘make sure she is never alone’,” Calla said. “It’s hard to say how serious these threats are. We’re taking them seriously.”
Daughter of Arab businessman Mohammed Motlaq Alqunun, Rahaf Mohammed said that while on holiday with her family in Kuwait, she escaped from the hotel when the others were asleep and bought a ticket to Australia via Bangkok. She then called a taxi and left. The Australian tourist visa being easy, she intended to reach Australia and claim Asylum there.
“I escaped an abusive family they locked me in a room for six months for cutting my hair. I’m an atheist. This is my only chance to escape,” she said. Rahaf said she has enough evidence to get her family convicted for violence.
Rahaf, who had renounced Islam when she was 16 years old, said that after she landed in Bangkok, Kuwait airlines took away her passport. Saudi officials and Kuwaiti airlines put her up in a transit hotel within Suvarnabhumi Airport and told her that she will be made to board a Kuwait airline on Monday at 11 AM (local time) back to her family who was waiting for her in Kuwait. After criticism, Bangkok has considered not to expel the woman keeping in mind her safety.
In her tweets, Rahaf claimed that she is in danger as she is being forced to go back to Saudi Arabia by the Saudi embassy. She said she was locked inside a hotel room in the airport. She further said that someone or the other is always chasing her in the airport and that she would not even get protection or asylum in Thailand as the Thai police will not cooperate with her. The Saudi embassy withdrew her passport and she is being accused by her father and Saudi Arabia of being psychologically ill and not knowing what she is doing.
After she posted her story online and asked for help for different countries, a global outcry over her condition ensured that she was not detained at Bangkok and handed over to her family. Canada ultimately granted her asylum.
The Logical Indian take
Over the years, hundreds have criticised Saudi Arabia for its ultra-conservative treatment of women. The restrictions imposed on women in this kingdom are unimaginable for anyone who roams free.
Men in this kingdom have rights over women in the worst possible ways. A tough guardianship system allows men to make all decisions on behalf of the women. Women are mere objects in the kingdom. If found guilty of any kind of “moral” crime, they are likely to be subjected to the worst forms of violence, or may even be killed.
In a previous incident, another Saudi woman called Dina Ali Lasloom was stopped in the Philippines in 2017 when she attempted to flee her family. Activists were told by an airline security official that the woman begged and screamed for help as she was carried by men with duct tape on the mouth, hand and feet.
Among several other restrictions, women in Saudi Arabia cannot go anywhere without their husband or a male relative, cannot avail public transport, has to wear an abaya and a hijab, can never answer a door. While the lightest punishment for breaking these rules is being lashed, they are likely to be brutally killed.
Amidst all the threats to her life, Rahaf did not lose the battle, and The Logical Indian appreciates her for her courage.
Written by : Sumanti Sen
Edited by : Poorbita Bagchi