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

Update: Highway 3 reopened following rockslide near Keremeos

The slide occurred Friday March 22, at about 8 p.m. between Red Bridge and Standing Rock

Rock slide forces rural Keremeos residents to leave their homes

Witness describes boulders bigger than her car

BREAKING: Highway 3 near Keremeos closed due to rockslide

Highway 3 just west of Keremeos is closed as of 8:44 p.m.… Continue reading

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: goodbye sun, hello rain

Environement Canada forcasts clouds and rain for the weekend and beyond

Okanagan College to develop wellness strategy for drug use

The Kelowna campus has 28 employees trained in the use of naloxone.

Stolen Bentley spotted going wrong way down highway found in Summerland

The car has been recorded going the wrong way on the Coquihalla, found two days later

Former Okanagan teen found safe after disappearing from YVR airport

Ethan Burnett, 14, was found safe in Kelowna on March 22

B.C. university to offer first graduate program on mindfulness in Canada

University of the Fraser Valley says the mostly-online program focuses on self-care and well being

Province announces $18.6 million for B.C. Search and Rescue

The funding, spread over three years, to pay for operations, equipment, and training

Vernon road closed again following landslide

The road that was reopened Thursday morning was closed again Friday following geotechnical engineer report.

Late-season wave of the flu makes its round in B.C.

BC Centre for Disease Control reported 50 per cent jump in flu cases in first weeks of March

Tofino’s housing crisis causing some to seek shelter at the local hospital

Tofino’s housing crisis is pushing the town’s ‘hidden homeless’ population into the forefront.

Sentencing judge in Broncos crash calls for carnage on highways to end

Judge Inez Cardinal sentenced Jaskirat Singh Sidhu to eight years

2 fires in Victoria caused by cigarettes prompts warning from deputy fire chief

Two separate fires caused by cigarette butts were avoidable

Most Read