- Relatives of Rahaf al-Qunun, who fled her family and secured asylum in Canada, said in a statement that they are disowning her.
- They said she had insulted them and acted disgracefully.
- Al-Qunun fled on January 5 and went viral with live social-media posts from Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, where she barricaded herself in a hotel room.
- Saudi women have spoken of heavy social costs and harsh criticism after they leave.
- Al-Qunun says she fled to avoid an arranged marriage and to have freedom. She also renounced Islam, which in Saudi Arabia is punishable by death.
The high-profile Saudi 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 al-Qunun 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 family, including her father, Mohammed al-Qunun, who is a Saudi governor, said: “We disavow the so-called ‘Rahaf Al-Qunun’ the mentally unstable daughter who has displayed insulting and disgraceful behaviour.”
Saudi women who leave the kingdom are often discussed with vitriol back home. Friends of al-Qunun said 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.
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 Wednesday. Al-Qunun was ultimately offered asylum by Canada on Friday and arrived in the country 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?”
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.
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 $US10,000.
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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