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Saudi teen's flight has implications for Saudi women left behind: analysis

Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, centre, stands with Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, right, and Saba Abbas from COSTI Immigrant Services, as she arrives at Toronto Pearson International Airport, on Saturday, January 12, 2019.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

OTTAWA — Canada’s acceptance of a Saudi Arabian teenager seeking asylum is sparking debate within the country about loosening laws restricting women’s freedom, but also a backlash that could initially repress more women, analysts say.

The Trudeau government’s decision to accept 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun as a refugee from Saudi Arabia is stoking internal discussion over loosening her home country’s controversial guardianship laws that give men control over women’s lives.

But experts say that slow march to reform could also be impeded by conservative families that will curtail their daughters’ freedom even more in light of Alqunun’s high-profile dash to freedom.

Alqunun won global attention last week when she fled her family while visiting Kuwait and flew to Bangkok, Thailand.

She barricaded herself in an airport hotel and launched a Twitter campaign outlining allegations of abuse against her relatives, accusations her family has denied.

She arrived in Toronto on Saturday after Canada agreed to a United Nations request to accept her as a refugee.

The Canadian Press