A young Saudi Arabian girl who hid in a hotel room in Bangkok and told the world that she was afraid to return home because of what her male relatives would do to her, is now safely in Canada. After many countries in the world hummed and hawed about accepting her as a refugee, Canada stepped forward to offer her asylum. When the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) needs a place to send people in trouble, they know that Canada is one of the best places to turn.
Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun almost immediately declared that she would no longer refer to herself by her last name. Instead, she would be called Rahaf Mohammed.
This is not the first time Canada has acted against Saudi Arabia for its treatment of women. A few months ago Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland criticized Saudi Arabia for jailing two women activists. Saudi Arabia threw a temper tantrum and expelled the Canadian ambassador in response, as well as recalling its ambassador from Ottawa along with other moves. One Saudi diplomat even tweeted a 9/11 style threat against Canada. That does not seem to have deterred Canada, however, particularly when it comes to the Saudi Arabian treatment of its citizens abroad and of women in particular.
All of this is just fine by me and shows once again how a little nation like Canada is not afraid to stand up to a global bully like Saudi Arabia while its American neighbor tugs at its forelock and refuses to blame the Saudi royal family for murder.
There are reasons for this of course. Canada has oil of its own. And Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a real shellacking in the media and on social media for selling the Saudis military vehicles. I really don’t care about the reasons why Canada did this I’m just glad they did.
As Mr. Trudeau said during the first altercation with the Saudis, Canada will always speak strongly on questions of human rights.
Finally, I wish Ms. Mohammed a safe and peaceful time in Canada. But as this article from the New Yorker shows, no Saudi citizen living abroad who has dared to criticize Saudi Arabia’s treatment of its citizens or of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is safe from pressure to be quiet or even worse retaliation, as we know all too well from the case of Jamal Khashoggi.