Saudi runway Rahaf Mohammed faces abuse over bikini photo

Saudi runway Rahaf Mohammed faces abuse over bikini photo
Saudi runway Rahaf Mohammed faces abuse over bikini photo

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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - Saudi Arabian teenager Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun has become the target of online abuse after she posted a photograph on social media where she is seen wearing a bikini.

Rahaf’s story exploded online in the form of a campaign called #SaveRahaf last year after she fled Saudi Arabia for Canada as an asylum seeker and documented her journey on Twitter.

Taking to Twitter, the 19-year-old, who is currently living in Canada, responded to a viral twitter thread asking users to share their "major appearance changes".

She responded by uploading two photos side-by-side; the first photo sees Rahaf donning a niqab, whilst the second showed her posing on a beach wearing a bikini.

Captioning the photos, she called it "the biggest change in my life..from being forced to wear black sheets and being controlled by men to being a free woman".

In response, many Twitter users sent her abusive messages accusing her of being "naked".

Read More: Saudi Arabia: 10 Reasons Why Women Flee

One person said "showing" her body was "not a way to judge your freedom" and other said men will look at her with "lust" because she showed her skin.

But not everyone criticised her. Some said the photo was a feminist act.

"We need more people like you in this world. Rahaf, what you did was incredibly brave," 

"Be proud of what you have achieved. I would like to meet you I person one day,” one Twitter user praised her.

Another celebrated Rahaf's new-found freedom.

"This post makes me so happy. Of course if a woman CHOOSES to wear a hijab or any religious garment we still support. #mybodymychoice"

Last year, Rahaf became the topic of international news after she defied her family and fled Saudi Arabia before seeking asylum abroad.

Al-Qunun captured the world's attention with a trail of tweets from her hotel room at Bangkok's airport, where she holed up after Thai authorities initially barred her from travelling on to Australia.

Her emotional social media posts ignited a #SaveRahaf campaign as she fled alleged physical and psychological abuse from her family in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia.

The calls from the Saudi teenager prompted quick action from groups across the world, including the UN.

She was granted refugee status in Canada and was welcomed to the country by Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland after landing in Toronto on Saturday.

At the time Al-Qunun told public broadcaster CBC of her family.

"My greatest fear is if they find me, I would disappear, and I wouldn't know what would happen to me after that," she said.
She claims that at home she was "exposed to physical violence, persecution, oppression, threats to be killed. I was locked in for six months".

"I felt that I could not achieve my dreams that I wanted as long as I was still living in Saudi Arabia," she said.

But in Canada, Qunun said, she has felt "reborn, especially when I felt the love and the welcome".

Saudi Arabia is accused of committing human rights abuses against its population - especially women. 

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