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

Team BC’s having fun, ‘feeling good’ about back-to-back victories

A junior curling team, based out of Langley, has yet to lose a game in the national championships.

Offender reintegration program gets $1.23 million in federal funding

Abbotsford-based No One Leaves Alone project also serves Mission, Chilliwack and Langley

Suspects sought in Langley thefts, frauds

Police released surveillance photos from recent petty thefts.

Langley police seek suspect in fake cop case

A warrant has been issued for the man who allegedly impersonated a Mountie in Langley in 2017.

Team BC advancing undefeated in junior nationals

A Langley-based team is 6-0, thus far, at the Canadian curling championships.

Canada’s archive buys rare book that hints at Nazi plans for North America

The 1944 book may have served as a blueprint for a Nazi purge

Teravainen’s 3 points lift Hurricanes to 5-2 win over Canucks

Vancouver heads into all-star break on losing note

B.C. hospital apologizes for veteran’s five-day hallway stay

Clinical director of Victoria General Hospital says case of retired veteran ‘definitely excessive’

Speaker Darryl Plecas says ‘justice’ needed for legislature employees

Plecas spoke to media at the opening of a pedestrian and cycling bridge in Abbotsford Wednesday

Advocate hopes B.C. legislature scandal leads to more transparency

‘Depressing’ that it takes a scandal to inspire freedom of information reform, says Sara Neuert

‘Dr. Lipjob’ avoids jail, gets 30-day suspended sentence

She will have to serve the 30 days in prison if she commits a breach during her two-year’s probation

Ex-Mountie involved in Taser death at Vancouver airport sues government

Kwesi Millington claims he acted in accordance with RCMP training

47 men arrested by Vancouver police for allegedly seeking sex with teenage girls

Seven of those arrested have been charged as part of a two-month operation

Surrey farmers taking stock of revamped Canada Food Guide

Products that were once big at the table — like meat and dairy — have been put on the back-burner

Most Read