Saudi runaway says more women will flee 'abusive' kingdom
A Saudi woman accepted as a refugee in Canada has said in that hopes her experience will inspire other women to flee her homeland.
Rahaf al-Qunun, 18, told Australia's ABC in an interview recorded in Toronto on Tuesday that she hoped that the international attention of her flight from alleged abuse in Saudi Arabia will be a catalyst for change.
"I think the number of women fleeing from the Saudi administration and abuse will increase, especially since there is no system to stop them," Qunun said.
"I'm sure that there will be a lot more women running away. I hope my story encourages other women to be brave and free. I hope my story prompts a change to the law, especially as it's been exposed to the world. This might be the agent for change," she added.
Qunun fled her family while visiting Kuwait before flying to Bangkok. Once there, she barricaded herself in an airport hotel to avoid deportation and tweeted about her situation.
On Friday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would accept Qunun as a refugee.
Her situation has highlighted the cause of women's rights in Saudi Arabia, where several women fleeing abuse by their families have been caught trying to seek asylum abroad in recent years and returned home.
Qunun said she felt "like I was born again" when she was met at Toronto airport on Saturday by Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.
"It was something amazing. There was a lot of love and hospitality, especially when the minister welcomed me and told me I was in a safe country and had all my rights," she said.
Qunun said she was upset by news that her family had issued a statement saying they disowned her.
"How could my family disown me simply because I wanted to be independent and escape their abuse? It really upset me," Qunun said.
When asked why she had fled her homeland, Alqunun replied: "I wanted to be free from abuse and depression. I wanted to be independent. I wouldn't be able to marry the person I wanted to. I couldn't get a job without permission."
Several other countries, including Australia, had been in talks with the United Nations' refugee agency to accept Qunun before she flew to Canada.