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Rahaf al-Qunun disowned by family after securing asylum in Canada

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The high-profile Saudi Arabian family whose daughter escaped on a plane and secured asylum in Canada has publicly disowned her.

Relatives of Rahaf al-Qunun addressed the public for the first time on Monday, after she became a viral phenomenon by documenting her attempt to flee what she said was an oppressive and brutal life with her family.

In a statement reported by Australia’s ABC News, her father Mohammed al-Qunun, a Saudi govenor, said: “We disavow the so-called ‘Rahaf al-Qunun’ the mentally unstable daughter who has displayed insulting and disgraceful behavior.”

In this photo released by the Immigration Police, Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, second left, shakes hand with Chief of Immigration Police Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn before leaving the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok to enter into the UNHCR’s care.
Immigration police via AP

Saudi women who leave the kingdom are often discussed with vitriol back home. Friends of al-Qunun said that she briefly suspended her Twitter account because of death threats. Danah Almayouf, who fled Saudi Arabia in 2016, said she also received threats.

al-Qunun escaped her family on January 5 and planned to claim asylum in Australia via a connecting flight to Bangkok, Thailand.

She was detained in Bangkok, where Thai officials planned to send her back to her family. They changed their minds after she attracted huge publicity with Twitter posts from the hotel room where she barricaded herself to avoid deportation.

The UN ruled her a legitimate refugee two days later on January 9. Al-Qunun was ultimately offered asylum by Canada on Friday, and arrived over the weekend.

In an interview with ABC News from Toronto on Monday, she said: “How could my family disown me simply because I wanted to be independent and escape their abuse?”

Rahaf al-Qunun said she was upset by the news her family had disowned her, speaking here to ABC on January 14, 2019.
ABC News

In a series of tweets while her case was being processed, al-Qunun said she fled because she wanted to avoid an arranged marriage, to be free, to avoid being treated as property, and because she had renounced Islam.

Read more: Here’s everything we know about the troubling disappearance and death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi

She said she was tortured, beaten, and locked away for six months when she cut her hair.

al-Qunun told Canada’s CBC news channel on Monday: “It’s something that is worth the risk I took.”

A GoFundMe page set up on Sunday to help al-Qunun start a new life in Canada, has so far raised $10,000.

It said: “Starting a brand new life with nothing but the clothes on your back will be daunting for this 18 yr old girl-especially since she is not used to the harsh Canadian winters (or the price of a coat and boots!)”

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