On January 5th, Saudi teen Rahaf Mohammed al-Quanun took to Twitter to send a distress signal; she was stranded at Bangkok’s main airport after fleeing her family and having her passport seized by a Saudi official. At the time, it was a faceless Twitter account with less than 30 followers. It felt like whistling in the wind. However, little by little, and tweet after tweet, her story was shared worldwide. #saverahaf took over Twitter and the truth was revealed. Rahaf was real and so was the threat to her life.
The 18 year old was fighting for her life. She claimed that her family abused her, and this was her last chance to escape.
Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy was crucial in the first days of this “rescue mission” , as she started translating Rahaf’s tweets so they could reach a bigger audience.
With nothing else to lose, she decided to share her picture with the world, so even people who questioned the credibility of the situation in the first place could join the cause.
More and more people hurried to save Rahaf , from journalists and activists to human rights organizations and government officials. UN representatives made it to the scene, and assured Rahaf that she will not be deported.
Thanks to Sophie McNeill’s efforts, Rahaf got her passport back. However she was still « stranded », she needed a country to take her in as a refugee. She was racing against the clock seeking asylum.
Thankfully, Rahaf’s cry for help was heard loud and clear. Prime minister Justin Trudeau confirmed that Canada would accept her as a refugee .
After a tough ordeal, Rahaf landed in Canada and was welcomed by the Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland at Toronto’s airport on Saturday. « This is a very brave new Canadian » Freeland told reporters, while Rahaf stood by her side, happy to start her new life.
It’s refreshing when social media is not used for doxxing or harassing, but instead it’s saving lives. And if you ever had any doubts about the power of social media, just listen to what the SA chargé d’affaires had to say about this situation .