Connect with us

Headlines

Who benefits from rescuing Rahaf? Questions linger after whirlwind story of Saudi teen’s asylum

Editor

Published

on

[ad_1]

It was a whirlwind affair that began with a Saudi teen barricaded in a Thai hotel room bravely defying the laws of her country and against long odds, refusing to return to her allegedly abusive family.

Just days later, Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun was on Canadian soil flanked by smiling officials and local service providers amid the flash of cameras — a swift resolution to a story that could have had a very different ending.

“I believe in lighting a single candle, and where we can save a single person, where we can save a single woman, that is a good thing to do,” Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters at Toronto’s Pearson Airport, the memory of recent mudslinging with Saudi Arabia over detained women’s rights advocate Samar Badawi hanging in the air. 

Now, as al-Qunun begins a new life in a new country, questions are being raised about the reasons for Canada’s speedy decision to grant her asylum, the message it sends and its implications for the future of the country’s already-frosty relationship with Saudi Arabia, where an estimated 17,000 Canadians currently live.

An ‘impossible’ situation

“Canada and Saudi Arabia are in a political battle currently, so because this woman is Saudi, my sense is that there was some political motive in promoting the ‘rescuing’ of a Saudi girl,” said Ryerson University professor Mehrunnisa Ali. 

“Of course, the rescuing of oppressed people is a Western narrative in many different ways but the securing of a Saudi woman being oppressed by her family and her country sharpens this narrative in ways that may not have been possible otherwise.”

Mehrunnisa Ali, a professor specializing in immigration at Ryerson University, said Canada’s speedy decision to grant al-Qunun asylum raises questions. (CBC)

The exact details of the 18-year-old’s plight aren’t known. After her arrival in Canada, al-Qunun was whisked to an undisclosed location out of concerns about what her dissent from the kingdom might mean for her safety.

Speaking to the New York Times before being granted asylum, al-Qunun described life in Saudi Arabia as “a prison.” The country’s highly restrictive guardianship laws require women to be granted permission from a male relative to work, travel, marry and receive certain kinds of medical treatment. It was a life of constant abuse, she told the paper — once she said she was locked in a room for six months over a hair cut to which her family took objection. 

“They can’t even leave the home without the permission of their guardian,” B.C.-based activist Yasmine Mohammed who identifies as an ex-Muslim told CBC News. “Many times, it’s the guardian himself that’s abusing her, so it puts women in an absolutely impossible situation.”

International rights monitors consistently rank Saudi Arabia among the world’s worst nations for women’s rights and gender equality. In its annual report on gender equality in 2018, the World Economic Forum ranked it 141 out of 149 countries. 

Thai immigration police Chief Surachate Hakparn told The Associated Press al-Qunun’s father denies physically abusing her or trying to force her into an arranged marriage, which were among the reasons she gave for wanting asylum. 

An ‘exceptional’ case

So why was it that al- Qunun’s case was processed so speedily?

Lauren La Rose, a spokesperson for the UN’s refugee agency, told CBC News al-Qunun’s case was an “exceptional” situation, a designation determined by the UN on a case-by-case basis. Examples of high priority cases include those where someone is very ill or violence against women or girls. 

“While it may be new information for the public, it is something that UNHCR does in terms of facilitating fast-track resettlements in situations when individuals may be facing immediate life-threatening situations or at risk of being threatened in their home country,” according to an international principle known as non-refoulement. 

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, seen holed up in room in Bangkok, Thailand, on Jan. 6, 2019. (@rahaf84427714/Reuters)

Out of an estimated 25.4 million refugees worldwide, less than one per cent are resettled because the need simply outweighs the number of spaces available globally, said UNHCR senior resettlement officer Michael Casasola.  

But at least one former diplomat said Canada’s privileging of al-Qunun’s case could set a “dangerous precedent.” 

“The Australians were prepared, as I understand it, to accept her as a refugee claimant. What we did is go one step further and accept her not as a claimant but as a refugee. And that’s a process that in Canada typically requires an assessment of the claim, a vetting of the individual and a decision that typically can take as much as two years,” said David Chatterson, Canada’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 2009-2011.

“What happens the next time a teenage girl or adult woman from Saudi Arabia flees her family and declares herself to no longer be a Muslim, does that mean automatic sanctuary?” In Saudi Arabia, leaving Islam is treated as a crime punishable by death. 

Watch as Canada’s former ambassador to Saudi Arabia speaks with CBC News:

Former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia David Chatterson speaks with CBC News about Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun being granted asylum in Canada 6:58 

Asked on Sunday about how and why al-Qunun’s claim was processed so quickly, Global Affairs Canada was tight-lipped.

“When the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) made a request of us that we grant Ms. Rahaf al-Qunun asylum, we accepted. Out of concern for her safety, we ask that her privacy be respected,” said spokesperson Stefano Maron.

‘A prop for our disputes’ 

For some, including senior research fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue Amarnath Amarasingam, it’s concerning how al-Qunun’s case is being celebrated by figures that often push an anti-Islam or anti-immigration message.

The message that we may be giving is that rather than go through the system, reach a powerful person.– Mehrunnisa Ali, Ryerson University professor

“Many on the far-right love ex-Muslims, and many ex-Muslims on the far-right often present themselves as so-called native informants presenting to the mainstream the real ‘truth’ about Muslims,” he said.

“It’s perhaps not surprising that many of these individuals on the far-right encouraged Canada to accept Rahaf after it was rumoured that she had abandoned Islam. To be clear, I’m very happy that Canada let her in but … I’m going to go out on a limb and say there are some ulterior motives there.”

Dennis Horak, who served as Canada’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia until he was expelled from the country last year, said the next few days could make a big impact on diplomatic relations between Canada and the kingdom.

“I would hate to see us use this to keep trotting her out and have meetings with the Prime Minister … various photo-ops things like that [and] that become the mallet with which we bash Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Watch as Dennis Horak discusses the implications for relations with Saudi Arabia:

Dennis Horak, former Canadian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, speaks to CBC’s Wendy Mesley about how Rahaf al-Qunun’s warm welcome in Toronto from Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland could further antagonize Canada’s relationship with the Saudis. 3:04 

“Does she become a prop for our disputes and our concerns with Saudi Arabia? I don’t think that’s fair to her and I don’t think it’s valuable in trying to rebuild our relationship.”

Meanwhile Ali, who was herself involved in sponsoring two Syrian refugee families — of which one case took almost two years to process — remains concerned with the message she said this high-profile case sends, including that winning public attention could make a claim more likely to proceed than another.

“That’s the biggest risk of power being exercised in a way the prioritizes some refugees versus others,” she said. 

“The message that we may be giving is that rather than go through the system, reach a powerful person.”

[ad_2]

Source link

قالب وردپرس

Headlines

List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

Editor

Published

on

By

With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

Continue Reading

Headlines

Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

Editor

Published

on

By

A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

Continue Reading

Headlines

COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

Editor

Published

on

By

Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

Article content

“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

Continue Reading

Chat

Trending