An 18-year-old from Saudi Arabia has been granted asylum in Canada after fleeing her family, saying she feared for her life after they disowned her.
Rahaf Mohammed caught the attention of media and press around the world when she locked herself in an airport hotel room in Bangkok, tweeting about her situation and saying she was going to be deported back to Saudi Arabia against her will.
The teenager had a valid visa to get to Australia, and was on her way there when Thai immigration authorities detained her upon arrival in Bangkok.
After being told she was going to be forced to return to Saudi Arabia, Rahaf barricaded herself in a hotel room to avoid deportation.
Speaking to ABC, the teenager said:
I was expecting them to enter the room and kidnap me. That’s why I wrote a goodbye letter. I decided that I would end my life, before I was forced back to Saudi Arabia.
I wanted to be free from oppression and depression. I wanted to be independent. I wouldn’t have been able to marry the person I wanted. I couldn’t get a job without permission. Women can’t even travel on their own.
It was also revealed that, though her family denies any abuse, they had disowned Rahaf and called her ‘mentally unstable’.
The teenager said:
How could my family disown me simply because I wanted to be independent and escape their abuse? It really upset me.
Since capturing the attention of press worldwide – thanks to tweeting about her story while barricaded in the hotel room – Rahaf has now arrived in Toronto, and has been sharing photos of herself settling in to the Canadian lifestyle.
On Tuesday, January 15, the teenager shared photos of her tucking into Canadian-style bacon and eggs, as well as getting a coffee from Starbucks, as MailOnline reports.
Rahaf also shared how she has been adapting to life in a new, colder country, buying winter clothes and enjoying more independence.
It has also been revealed that security guards have been hired by the refugee agency helping Rahaf, after threats were made to her safety.
Mario Calla, the executive director of Costi Immigrant Services, said they have hired security guards to make sure the teenager ‘is never alone’, and added the agency is taking the threats very seriously.
She sees these threats. She has left Islam and she basically has broken away from her family, and that scares her.
In a press conference held yesterday, January 15, Rahaf thanked the Canadian and Thai governments, as well as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
I am one of the lucky ones. I know there are unlucky women who disappeared after trying to escape or who could not do anything to change their reality.
Today and for years to come, I will work in support of freedom for women around the world. The same freedom I experienced on the first day I arrived in Canada.
The refugee agency is currently helping Rahaf settle into a temporary home, and is looking for a more permanent place for the future.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.