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Saudi asylum seeker in Thailand en route to Canada

Saudi asylum seeker in Thailand en route to Canada

AFP
Bangkok
The 18-year-old Saudi asylum seeker who fled her family and harnessed the power of Twitter to stave off deportation from Thailand was en route to Canada late Friday, in a surprise twist after officials gave heavy hints she was bound for Australia.
Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun’s attempt to flee the ultra-conservative kingdom was embraced by rights groups as a beacon of defiance against repression.
Qunun alleged that she was abused by her family -- who deny the allegations -- and rights groups also said she had renounced Islam, risking prosecution in Saudi Arabia.
Rahaf first said she was aiming for Australia where officials had suggested they would give serious consideration to her claim for asylum, which was endorsed as legitimate by the UNHCR on Wednesday.
But late Friday Thailand’s immigration police chief said a smiling and cheerful Rahaf was bound for Toronto and had left on a flight after 11:00 pm (1600 GMT). “She chose Canada... Canada said it will accept her,” Thai immigration chief Surachate Hakparn told reporters at Bangkok’s main airport.
“She is safe now and has good physical and mental health. She is happy.” - Death threats -Rahaf left from the same airport where her quest for asylum began less than a week ago in a swift-moving process that defied most norms.
On Friday afternoon Rahaf posted a final cryptic tweet on her profile saying “I have some good news and some bad news” -- shortly after her account was deactivated in response to death threats she had faced, her friends said.
“Rahaf received death threats and for this reason she closed her Twitter account, please save Rahaf life,” tweeted supporter @nourahfa313, who has flanked Rahaf’s social media campaign with her own updates on Twitter.
Rahaf’s swift use of Twitter saw her amass more than 100,000 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 last year.

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