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Saudi woman in Thailand flying to Canada, granted asylum

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun arrives at Toronto Pearson International Airport alongside Canadian minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland on Sunday. Alqunun fled her family saying she feared for her life and was granted asylum by Canada

"It was her wish to go to Canada", Thailand's immigration chief Surachate Hakparn told reporters. "She'll leave tonight at 11.15pm".

Global News reached out to the UNHCR Canada for a comment, but a spokesperson said due to "protection reasons" the agency can not talk about her case.

Previously, several countries including Canada and Australia were in talks with the United Nations refugee agency in Bangkok on accepting Qunun.

Qunun arrived at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport in transit from Kuwait last Saturday, when she was denied entry by Thai immigration officials.

On Wednesday, Thai officials had allowed her to assume temporary protection of United Nations officials.

"Refugee protection today is often under threat and can not always be assured, but in this instance global refugee law and overriding values of humanity have prevailed", UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement.

Al-Qunun's case has raised the state of women's rights in Saudi Arabia, where several women have been caught trying to seek asylum after fleeing their homes.

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

Hakeem's case is being considered by Thailand's justice system, she said.

But he said the immigration minister, David Coleman, had questions to answer about why the Australian government had taken so long to assess her application when Canada managed to do it in one day. "Canada will always stand up for human rights, very much including women's rights". He called on Twitter to shut down those accounts.

By Friday, Alqunun had closed down her Twitter account.

Alqunun claims her life would be in grave danger if she were returned to Saudi Arabia and her family would kill her.

Qunun, who is staying in Bangkok at an undisclosed location and was not available for comment, had earlier said on Twitter she had been receiving death threats from a relative on the social media platform.

She refused to fly back and barricaded herself into her airport hotel room, attracting worldwide attention.

"The Thai government is most certainly aware of the importance of this matter to Australia", she said.

Despite having harnessed the power of Twitter to stave off deportation on Friday, she abruptly suspended her account, with friends saying she had received death threats.

Qunun's flight has emerged at a time when Riyadh is facing unusually intense scrutiny from its Western allies over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October and over the humanitarian consequences of its war in Yemen.

"We are sorry the original wording about 'respecting her decision" was open to misinterpretation".

She refused to see her father, who traveled to Thailand and expressed opposition to her resettlement.

World football governing body FIFA says AlAraibi should be freed and allowed to return to Australia where he plays for Melbourne football club Pascoe Vale in the second tier of the Australian League.

Trudeau brushed aside suggestions that the move might complicate already strained relations with Saudi Arabia, while the organization Human Rights Watch praised Canada for acting swiftly to provide sanctuary to a vulnerable young woman.