Saudi teen Rahaf on her way to Canada

Saudi teen Rahaf on her way to Canada

Police Chief Surachate Hakparn said the 18-year-old woman, Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, would leave late Friday evening.

Their comments included "You're a waste of taxpayer's money", and a BBC official backtracked, with, "We accept that the original wording of our tweet did not reflect the question being posed on air and was open to misinterpretation".

The woman, who said her passport was seized after being stopped at an airport in Bangkok on Saturday, had barricaded herself in an airport hotel room and launched a social media campaign, drawing attention from around the world.

Thai officials allowed her temporary protection of United Nations officials on Wednesday after initially threatening to deport her.

"Al-Qunun's plight has captured the world's attention over the past few days, providing a glimpse into the precarious situation of millions of refugees worldwide", said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

Al-Qunun's case has raised the state of women's rights in Saudi Arabia, where several women have been caught trying to seek asylum after fleeing their homes.

Qunun's swift use of Twitter saw her amass more than tens of thousands of followers within a week, highlighting her plight at a time when Saudi Arabia's human rights record is under heavy scrutiny following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi a year ago.

She thanked everyone for helping her, he said, and added that the first thing she would do upon arrival in Canada would be to start learning the language.

Sophie McNeill, an Australia Broadcast Corp. journalist who has had direct contact with Qunun, said the teenager was "safe and fine" but was taking a short break from Twitter.

Australia had been one of the countries weighing offering Ms Alqunun asylum.

She refused to see her father, who travelled to Thailand and expressed opposition to her resettlement.


"If, for any reason, it doesn't work out with Australia, then UNHCR would say okay, we will take the file back and refer it to another country".

The UN granted Qunun refugee status earlier this week, shortly after Thailand said it wouldn't deport her amid global pressure from human rights groups and other supporters.

Alqunun's appeal for refugee status also underscored the severe restrictions that women in Saudi Arabia face.

Saudi Arabia's wider human rights record has come under intense scrutiny since the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi in October.

Alqunun deactivated her Twitter account on Friday.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne speaks to the press at the Australian embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, January 10, 2019.

If Canada takes Ms Mohammed al-Qunun, it could further upset Saudi-Canada relations.

She said she has been subjected to physical and psychological abuse at the hands of her family in Saudi Arabia, where she was once locked in her room for six months for cutting her hair.

Rahaf Mohammed Al-qunun at the United Nations building in Bangkok, before departing to the airport.

In August, Riyadh expelled Canada's ambassador and withdrew its own envoy from Canada after Canada's Foreign Ministry tweeted support for women's rights activists arrested in the kingdom.

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