saudi teen toronto

Teen lands in Toronto after fleeing Saudi Arabia

An 18-year-old Saudi teen whose harrowing, real-time account of escape from death at the hands of her own family that has captured the world's attention is now safe and sound in Toronto.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun shot to fame early last week after fleeing her family while visiting Kuwait, flying to Bangkok alone, and barricading herself in an airport hotel room to ask for help using social media.

"I'm the girl who [ran] away from Kuwait to Thailand," she said in English va Twitter while at Bangok's Suvarnabhumi Airport on January 5. "I'm in real danger because the Saudi embassy trying to forcing me to go back to Saudi Arabia, while I'm at the airport waiting for my second flight."

"I'm afraid," she continued. "My family WILL kill me."

Alqunun proceeded to live-tweet the events of her attempted escape after Saudi Arabian embassy officials confiscated her passport, prohibiting her from continuing on to Australia, where she had hoped to be granted asylum.

"Based on the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol, I'm Rahaf Mohmed, formally seeking a refugee status to any country that would protect me from getting harmed or killed due to leaving my religion and torture from my family," she wrote on January 6 as Saudi officials prepared to forcibly deport her back to Kuwait.

"I forgot to mention that the Saudi Arabia's embassy also said to the Bangkok airport if they don't flee me back to Kuwait they will literally KIDNAP me."

The young woman's desperate pleas for help did not go unanswered, as concerned Twitter users from around the world translated and shared her messages widely.

By the time her father, a governor in Saudi Arabia, had arrived to Bangkok, Alqunun was in contact with legal experts and aid organizations who encouraged her not to leave the hotel room in Thailand.

Alqunun proceeded to remain barricaded in the room and demanded to speak with The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), even as guards allegedly threatened her and said she "can't ask for UN protection."

Early on the morning of January 7, UN officials arrived to the Bangkok airport and made contact with the terrified teen on Twitter.

From that point on, it was all uphill for the 18-year-old refugee claimant.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved the UN High Commissioner for Refugees' request to allow Alqunun to settle in this country, saying that he was pleased to do so as Canada "understands how important it is to stand up for human rights, to stand up for women’s rights around the world."

It wasn't long before she was on a plane bound for Toronto.

Alqunun finally arrived at Toronto's Pearson International Airport on Saturday, where she was greeted by supporters, reporters and Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland.

"Canada was glad we were able to act quickly and to offer refuge to a refugee at the request of UNHCR," said Freeland to reporters at the airport. "And to offer refuge to a person whose life was in danger."

Alqunun herself is now exploring the beautiful city of Toronto, according to her Twitter feed.

"I would like to thank you people for supporting me and saving my life," she wrote of those who helped spread her message using the social media platform.

"Truly I have never dreamed of this love and support. You are the spark that would motivate me to be a better person."

Lead photo by

Lauren La Rose


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