Saudi refugee granted asylum, flying to Canada

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne will be meeting senior officials in Thailand

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun is said to have boarded a plane Friday in Bangkok en route to Canada, where she has been granted asylum.

Several other countries, including Australia, had been in talks with the U.N.'s refugee agency to accept Alqunun's bid for asylum.

The young woman's story made global headlines after she was stopped at a Bangkok airport on Saturday by Thai immigration police, denied entry and had her passport seized.

Labor and the Greens welcomed the decision on Saturday, which followed a tense week during which Qunun barricaded herself in an airport hotel room in Bangkok and used social media to draw attention to her plight.

Confined to an airport transit hotel, Alqunun conducted an online appeal for help, garnering tens of thousands of followers on Twitter and enough public and diplomatic support to convince Thai officials to admit her temporarily under the protection of United Nations officials.

She has alleged that she will be killed if she is made to return to Saudi Arabia, where women are subjected to anachronistic social restrictions, including under strict "male guardianship" practices.

Several women had been forced to return home in recent years, they say, adding that many similar cases had gone unreported.

The case is the latest in a series highlighting what human rights activists say is the widespread subservient treatment of women in Saudi Arabia.

Canada's decision to grant her asylum could further upset the country's relations with Saudi Arabia.

Canada has emerged as a potential new home for Saudi refugee Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun despite Australia's willingness to fast-track her application.

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In response, Saudi Arabia accused Canada of interfering in its internal affairs and expelled the Canadian ambassador to Saudi Arabia and recalled its own ambassador from Ottawa.

Payne will meet with Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister Prajin Juntong as well as holding a bilateral meeting with her Thai counterpart, Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, as part of her first official visit to Thailand as foreign minister.

Around midday on Friday, Qunun posted on her Twitter account that she had "bad and good news!"

"We are providing necessary security for her", he said.

'Rahaf received death threats and for this reason she closed her Twitter account, please save Rahaf life, ' @nourahfa313 wrote. The Saudis also sold Canadian investments and ordered their citizens studying in Canada to leave.

Her story has also put Saudi Arabia's guardianship laws, which restrict many aspects of women's lives, back under worldwide scrutiny.

Al-Qunun deleted her original Twitter account on Friday because she was receiving "very nasty, very real death threats". She later said Australia was assessing Alqunun's resettlement request.

It noted that Hakeem al-Araibi, a refugee and "torture survivor" from Bahrain granted residence in Australia, has been detained by Thailand since November awaiting a hearing on a Bahraini extradition request.

"The BBC should be condemning Islamic blasphemy laws and defending human rights and women's rights".

She quickly amassed tens of thousands of followers with a #SaveRahaf hashtag that went viral and saw her delivered into the hands of the United Nations refugee agency in lightning speed compared to other asylum cases.

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