The saga of the 18-year-old Saudi girl, Rahaf Mohammed, has ended. She is now safe in Canada, where she was granted asylum, and was even greeted at Toronto’s airport on January 10 by Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland. She had been on the run from her family who, she said, might well kill her. Her crime? Daring to think for herself. At the age of 16, she had apparently thought for herself, and decided to leave Islam. She did not announce it to anyone in her family, but from that time forth she began to plan her escape from Saudi Arabia. She was in touch by email with another Saudi girl, also an apostate, who had managed to make it safely to the West, and from whose example Rahaf took heart. She initially set her sights on Australia.
When the family traveled to Kuwait on vacation in early January, she saw her chance. Once they were in Kuwait, she managed to evade the rest of her family and returned to the airport, where she took a flight to Thailand. At the Bangkok airport, she was met by Thai officials working with the local Saudis. They took away her passport, but did not take possession of Rahaf herself. She checked into an airport hotel, where she locked herself in a room. Thai guards stood outside. An official of Kuwait Airways came to plead with her, through a closed door, to go back to Kuwait. Nothing doing. Meanwhile, Rahaf Mohammed was contacting her friends on her phone, social media spread the story, and her plight was picked up by major news outlets, including the BBC and CNN.
The huge international outcry led Thai authorities to grant UNHCR (United Nations High Commission For Refugees) access to her “to assess her need for international refugee protection,” the UNHCR said in a statement.
Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said: “Today really was a good day for the cause of human rights around the world, with Rahaf’s tremendous courage and resilience being met with a global surge of sympathy for her. It all came together to persuade Thailand to do the right thing.”