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

Vernon ordered to reinstate terminated firefighters caught having sex at work

City believes arbitration board erred, exploring options

Vernon man arrested following disturbance

Suspect seen fleeing home, tracked down by Vernon RCMP officers

Updated: Scene cleared after accident near Ellison Lake

An accident near Ellison Lake near Kelowna and Lake Country is causing traffic delays

Vernon dust advisory continues

Dusty conditions are mainly caused by road traffic stirring up winter traction materials that have accumulated over winter months.

‘The whole city has changed:’ Okanagan woman in New Zealand reacts to mosque attacks

An expatriate and Muslim students at UBC Okanagan deeply affected by white supremacist shooting

Penticton resident baffled about welcome mat theft

Security footage shows a woman and her dog taking the mat from the property on March 13

Trans Mountain court hearing: B.C. says it won’t reject pipelines without cause

Canada says the proposed amendments to B.C.’s Environmental Management Act must be struck down

Okanagan dancers kick up heels for spring

PHOTOS: Spring Fling sees more than 60 converge in Vernon from as far as Okanagan Falls and Salmon Arm

Carfentanil found in 15% of overdose deaths in January: B.C. coroner

Carfentanil is 100 times more powerful than illicit fentanyl and used to tranquilize elephants

B.C. father fights for his life after flu turns into paralyzing condition

Reisig has lost all motor skills with the exception of slight head, shoulder and face movements.

Prescribed burns to start this month in the Okanagan

The Lower Similkameen Indian Band with partners are starting a multi-year burn on Crater Mountain

New highways maintenance contractor begins work April-May

Acciona Infrastructure Maintenance Inc. to service Shuswap, North and South Okanagan

Lack of bus service leaving residents stranded

Ministry’s Health Connections solution visits Salmon Arm just twice per week, once west, once south

B.C. wildfire prevention budget bulked up as dry spring unfolds

Night vision goggles tested for early detection effort

Most Read