A Saudi teenager who fled her family and claimed asylum in Canada has said the journey was “worth the risk” so she could live a more independent life.
Rahaf Mohammed, 18, locked herself in a Bangkok hotel room and refused to fly back home earlier this month.
She alleged that her family had abused her and said she feared she would be killed if she returned home.
“It’s something that is worth the risk I took,” she told the Toronto Star newspaper. “I had nothing to lose.”
“We are treated as an object, like a slave,” she said. “I wanted to tell people my story and about what happens to Saudi women.”
She had been on a trip to Kuwait with her family when she fled on a flight to the Thai capital, saying she intended to take a connecting flight to Australia and had an Australian visa.
But she says her passport was seized by a Saudi diplomat when he met her coming off the flight in Bangkok, leaving her stranded.
Ms Mohammed – who has dropped al-Qunun from her name because her family has disowned her – then sent a series of tweets pleading for help from her airport hotel room.
Her case was picked up by Human Rights Watch and numerous journalists. Thailand allowed her to stay and the UN assessed her claim for asylum.
“I never thought there was a 1 per cent chance that this could happen,” she told the Toronto Star. “I feel very safe in Canada, a country that respects human rights.”
She added: “I feel born again from feeling the love coming from everyone waiting for my arrival.”
Ms Mohammed says that, although the Canadian weather may take some getting used to, she is excited for the new experiences ahead.
“I will try things I haven’t tried,” she told the broadcaster CBC. “I will learn things I didn’t learn. I will explore life…. I will have a job and live a normal life.”