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

Carnarvon Park plan becomes battle of racquet sports

Residents and community members given one more opportunity to provide feedback, questionnaires

Weaver calls for Assistant Deputy Speaker to step aside

B.C. Green Party leader alleges whistleblower was fired after looking into the Liberal MLA’s expenses

One year anniversary of tsunami warning in Victoria: what’s changed?

More alert systems tested, put in place since Jan. 23 scare

Alt Pride calls for zero police presence at Victoria Pride Parade

Says VPS can’t have good relationships with vulnerable communities if police participate

Hall of Fame looks to educate more athletes in Greater Victoria

Sports organization is interested in setting up more Bate family style awards

WATCH: Midnight mall break-in targets cash in donation bin

Thieves break-and-enter Tillicum shopping mall at 2 a.m.

Instagram celebrity pays for B.C. woman’s boob job

‘Kirill was here’ held a contest for women to win a boob job and a trip to Miami

POLL: Do you support a speculation tax on vacant homes in Greater Victoria?

Homeowners have begun to receive letters asking if they should be exempt… Continue reading

Man pulls over to help injured owl, gets hit by SUV

Chase RCMP say owl flew away while they were on scene

End ‘exploitative’ parking fees at B.C. hospitals, group says

HospitalPayParking.ca is criticizing a new contract between health authorities and Impark

New food guide addresses ‘elephant’ in the room – alcohol

Experts welcomed the tougher stance on an issue they say demands a co-ordinated strategy

Cannabis sales up 25% in November as overall retail sales fall 0.9%

Cannabis store sales totalled $54 million in the first full month of legal recreational pot sales

LNG Canada support far outweighs protests, CEO says

Andy Calitz vows completion on schedule at B.C. Natural Resource Forum

B.C. man says he was evicted due to ‘personal vendetta’ against his toddler

Matt Astifan says he has tried to do what he can but a young child will always make some noise

Most Read