Twitter | @rahaf84427714

Saudi Teen Who Fled To Canada To Escape Family Celebrates Freedom With Bikini Pic

A Saudi Arabian teen who recently renounced Islam and sought asylum in Canada is celebrating one year of freedom with some pretty poignant before-and-after photos.

19-year-old Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun shared the snaps of herself on Twitter to highlight the ways in which she has embraced her new life in Canada, earning both support and criticism from other users on the platform.

Qunun first made headlines in early 2019 when she fled from her family during a trip to Kuwait and attempted to seek asylum in Australia.

Twitter | @rahaf84427714

However, as the BBC reported the teen was detained during a stopover in Bangkok by the Thai immigration authorities who placed her in a hotel room at the airport to await a flight back to her family in Kuwait.

Refusing to accept this as her fate, Qunun barricaded herself inside that room where she revealed she had renounced Islam, an offense punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.

Qunun was determined to never return home, where her parents and family were all waiting for her.

In an effort to gain her freedom, the teen used social media to beg for help from the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia, and gripped the world with her stories of abuse at the hands of her own family.

As Qunun explained, she suffered years of abuse from her family, both physical and psychological.

Flickr |

She was once locked inside of her bedroom for six months, simply because she had cut her hair. This punishment, she said, would be considered mild compared to what awaited her at home, should she be forced to return.

"I shared my story and my pictures on social media and my father is so angry because I did this," Qunun told BBC. "I can't study and work in my country, so I want to be free and study and work as I want."

The United Nations' refugee agency intervened and began campaigning for a country to accept the desperate teen.

Then, after six days spent barricaded inside her hotel room, Qunun was granted asylum status in Canada.

"Canada has been unequivocal that we will always stand up for human rights and women's rights around the world," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters. "When the UN made a request of us that we grant Ms. al-Qunun asylum, we accepted."

When Qunun arrived in Toronto on January 12, 2019, she was wearing a "Canada" sweatshirt and an understandably relieved smile.

Flickr | FlungingPictures

The country's minister of foreign affairs, Chrystia Freeland, who accompanied the teen through the airport, told reporters, "This is Rahaf al-Qunun, a very brave new Canadian."

Days after she landed in Toronto, Qunun gave her first public interview and said she hopes to be seen as an inspiration to other Saudi women.

Guardian News

"I think that the number of women fleeing from the Saudi administration and abuse will increase, especially since there is no system to stop them," the teen told the Guardian. "I hope my story encourages other women to be brave and free."

She added, "I hope my story prompts a change to the laws, especially as it's been exposed to the world."

Now, just over one year since she was welcomed into Canada, Qunun said she is celebrating her "freedom."

Last month, she shared a tweet in which she revealed, "Every time I wake up, I feel like I'm being born again."

"There's always hope even if you don't see it," she added, finishing the tweet with the hashtag #newlife.

At the end of January, Qunun shared two photos to show "the biggest change in [her] life."

In one of the pictures, the teen is wearing a niqab, a Muslim headscarf consisting of a veil that only leaves the area of the female wearer's eyes clear.

In the other photo, she is sitting on the beach in a swimsuit with her shoulders bare and sunglasses on her head while she enjoys the sun and the sand.

Some Twitter users did not appreciate the statement Qunun was trying to make with her post.

"Certainly you won this world as per your opinion," this user wrote. "But not here after. Showing your body is not a way to judge your freedom."

"Poor," another user wrote in a translated tweet. "You do not understand the meaning of freedom."

Of course, there were also plenty of supporters to drown out the critics in the comments.

"You're way [too] beautiful, inside and out, to be hidden," this user wrote, while another added, "Wow, you look good. Well done, I hope you have a wonderful life."

"Even though I'm a muslim, I do believe nothing can be forced upon you," this user commented. "You have your total and complete freedom to make your choices, and I'm happy you chose to be free and comfortable in your own body. You look extremely beautiful and happy now."

h/t: BBC