Traumatized & Tormented… Then To Toronto
It wasn’t possible for her to build her career without the permission of her family members… She was also denied permission to marry whom she loved… She had no freedom. Acute mental stress and depression prompted her to leave Saudi Arabia!
The Saudi culture prompted teenager Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun to leave her motherland, as she decided to take shelter in Australia. However, she failed to do so. Finally, the 18-year-old Rahaf landed in Canada.
Why did she take such a huge step despite facing the risk?
The young lady revealed her story immediately upon her arrival in Toronto! “I think the number of women fleeing from the Saudi administration and abuse will increase, especially since there is no system to stop them. I’m sure that there will be a lot more women running away … I hope my story prompts a change to the law, especially as it’s been exposed to the world,” said Rahaf while speaking at a media conference in Toronto last week.
Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun (centre), accompanied by Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland (right), arriving at Toronto Pearson International Airport.
Rahaf claimed that she risked her life and fled the kingdom only after being physically and mentally abused by her family members (since the age of 16). First, she reached Thailand via Kuwait and urged the Thai authorities to provide her with asylum. She was allowed to enter Thailand, but processed as a refugee by the UN’s refugee agency. When Rahaf came to know that her father and brother travelled to retrieve her in Thailand, she made an attempt to leave the South-east Asian country. Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accepted a request from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to take in Rahaf, thus, giving her a second life.
After their return to Saudi Arabia from Thailand, Rahaf’s father said that his daughter lost the mental balance and the family disowned her. Rahaf – who dropped al-Qunun from her name immediately after her family disowned her – alleged that her father was trying to hide the crimes he committed! “My life was in danger and I felt I had nothing to lose. I wanted to tell people my story and about what happens to Saudi women,” she stressed.
Rahaf claimed that the Saudi men still treat women as objects or slaves. According to the teenage girl, women can’t take decisions about their lives in Saudi Arabia. She made clear that she would never return to her motherland, insisting: “They will kill me because I fled and because I announced my atheism. They wanted me to pray and to wear a veil, and I didn’t want to.”
Rahaf – who was a first-year university student, studying basic science and mathematics – is one of 10 children of a Saudi emir. Although her family was financially very strong, she had no freedom. She had to live a tough life in Saudi Arabia, as her father put her under the guardianship of her elder brother when he left the city. When she took a haircut, her brother locked her in a room for six months. The brother locked her up once again for removing the niqab (veil) a couple of months ago.
Political analysts are of the opinion that there are thousands of women, like Rahaf, in the West Asian country who are not so lucky. They have slammed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman for making a false claim that he led many successful reforms that include regulations restricting the powers of the religious police. According to analysts, the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018 has already exposed the involvement of the Royal Family in criminal activities. And now, Rahaf’s journey to Canada rubs salt in many a wound!
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