Breaking News, Politics

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, Welcomed into Canada as a Refugee

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

By Monique Conrod

A teenager from Saudi Arabia has been welcomed into Canada as a refugee, after fleeing from her family and country.  

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, ran away from her family on January 6. She planned to fly to Australia, but her plane stopped in Thailand first. There, a Saudi official took her passport away from her and she was taken to a hotel. Soon after that, her father and brother arrived in Thailand.

Rahaf was afraid she would be forced to return to Saudi Arabia with them, so she locked herself in her hotel room. Then she posted her story on Twitter.

She asked the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for help. (The UNHCR is an international program that assists refugees.) She also asked several countries to take her in, including Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

On January 11, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would welcome Rahaf.

“That is something that we are pleased to do because Canada is a country that understands how important it is to stand up for human rights, to stand up for women’s rights around the world,” he said.

Rahaf arrived in Toronto on January 13. Canada’s Minister of  Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, met her at the airport. Freeland called Rahaf “a very brave new Canadian” and welcomed her to her new home.

A local organization that helps new Canadians get settled has found Rahaf a place to live.

In a letter posted online, Rahaf’s family says she was not mistreated. They said her behaviour is disgraceful and insulting.

Rahaf’s first goal as a new Canadian is to improve her English skills. Then she would like to study engineering at university. At a press conference, the teenager said she wants to live “like any other young woman” in Canada.

Saudi Arabia has very strict laws for women. All women must have a male guardian – usually their father, brother, husband or uncle. They need their guardian’s permission to do many things, such as get married, travel or open a bank account. Most public buildings in Saudi Arabia have separate entrances for men and women because women are not supposed to mix with men who are not related to them. In June 2018, women in Saudi Arabia were  allowed to have drivers’ licences for the first time.

Related Link

Watch Mr. Nagji’s Grade 5 Class at Viola Desmond P.S. in Toronto discuss aspects of this article (below).

CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS
By Jonathan Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
Some believe that Rahaf may have jumped the line to obtain refugee status by using social media. Do you believe that she should have been able to receive immediate refugee status? Why or why not?

Reading Prompt: Demonstrating Understanding
Imagine a friend asked you to tell you about the article you just read. How would you summarize its key ideas.

Junior
Demonstrate understanding of a variety of texts by summarizing important ideas and citing supporting details (OME, Reading: 1.4).

Intermediate
D
emonstrate understanding of increasingly complex texts by summarizing
important ideas and citing a variety of details that support the main idea (OME, Reading: 1.4).

Language Feature: Linking Words
Linking words often start a sentence and create flow or establish transition in the sequence of a story or recount. Look at the paragraph below,

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, ran away from her family on January 6. She planned to fly to Australia, but her plane stopped in Thailand first. There, a Saudi official took her passport away from her and she was taken to a hotel. Soon after that, her father and brother arrived in Thailand.

How does the linking word, “There” create flow?
How do the linking words, “soon after that” establish a transition?
Why might linking words be an invaluable tool to an effective writer?