'ONE OF THE LUCKY ONES': Saudi teen looking forward to new life in Canada
January 15, 2019
January 15, 2019 9:24 PM EST
It was a proud moment for Canada when Rahaf Mohammed said, “I am one of the lucky ones. I found a safe country to live in.”
The Saudi Arabian teenager held a press conference Tuesday morning in Toronto to thank all those who helped her flee oppression at home and find her way to safety in Canada.
She also held the conference to ask for relief from an overwhelming media response to her situation — she now wants to get on with the business of learning English and settling into her new home in this country.
Though a translator (Dr. Saba Abbas), Mohammed spoke of gratitude for all the offers of help she has received since her arrival in Canada on Saturday. The young woman left her home Jan. 5 and made it to Bangkok, where she hid out in a hotel room at the airport and used social media to tell the world of her desire to lead a free life. She was eventually granted asylum in Canada.
She said she is looking forward to being independent and to travelling.
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“I want to make my own decisions on education, a career, or who and when I should marry. I had no say in any of this,” she said. “Today I can proudly say that I am capable of making all of those decisions.”
Mohammed, who has dropped the surname al-Qunun since being publicly disowned by her family, spoke with strength and courage in front of the media. According to Mario Calla, executive director of COSTI immigrant services, Mohammed is doing fine and has even been to the mall to buy winter clothes and get a phone. She is delighted by the support she has encountered thus far.
As with many immigrants, of course, “the big challenge is the loss of family, friends and culture,” he said. How that will affect Mohammed down the road remains to be seen.
“So far, we have seen no signs of distress,” Calla added.
Social media stands firmly at the centre of Mohammed’s flight to freedom.
It has been a blessing and a curse, with Twitter first attracting international attention to the young Saudi woman’s plight and helping her get to Canada, but now bringing threats to her security. “It’s a bit of minefield,” Calla understated.
Those threats are taken seriously, he added. Mohammed currently has a guard with her. She is never alone and her future living arrangements will likely be with a family, both for the obvious emotional reasons and for personal safety.
Rahaf Mohammed speaks to the media flanked by Dr. Saba Abbas (R) , her settlement worker/translator, at the COSTI Corvetti Education Centre in Toronto on January 15, 2019. Jack Boland/Toronto Sun
Calla praised Mohammed’s strength and spoke of the 60 million refugees on our planet. “Less than a third of 1% get resettled,” he said.
“Every person who has a safe future — it’s a huge victory.”
Mohammed said she will not squander the new opportunity Canada has provided.
“Today and for years to come, I will work in support of freedom for women around the world,” she said. “The same freedom I experienced on the first day I arrived in Canada.”