The relations between Saudi Arabia and Canada have escalated lately over Canada’s interference in Saudi’s domestic affairs. The whole incident revolves around a Saudi-American campaigner, Samar Badawi, who was held by the Saudi authorities. However, most media outlets don’t actually mention the real reason these so-called activists were arrested. Not to mention that they were funded by foreign embassies for performing many suspicious activities.
#Saudi – #Canada row update:
•Saudi freezes scholarships, student exchanges, trade (~15,000 Saudi student in Canada)
•OIC, Egypt, UAE, Palestinian Authority express support for Saudi
•CA Ambassador due to leave tonight
•No official Canada reaction yet
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) August 6, 2018
As of now, Saudi Arabia has put a stop to all new trade deals with Canada as well. The Arab country also expelled the Canadian ambassador in Saudi Arabia with immediate effect. Saudi has also called its ambassador in Canada home after the verbal dispute between the two states stepped up.
Saudi Arabia's state airline will suspend all flights to and from Toronto, as the country's diplomatic row with Canada intensifies https://t.co/4u9HJsjms9
— CNN International (@cnni) August 7, 2018
Not just the diplomatic relations, Saudi Arab is taking a hard stance as it has also directed Saudi students in Canada to leave the country and find schools elsewhere. Currently, there are about 16,000 Saudi students studying in Canada on scholarships. The scholarships awarded to these students have been suspended by the Saudi government as well.
Hi angel, What about Ethnic Cleansing, Canadian Style?!
What about 200000 homless in Canada?!
What about the mystery of 1000 murdered women in Canada?!
What about #EnergyEast and what about dirty oil in Canada?!
This is a really big issue in human right..
— أماني العجلان?? (@AmaniAAJ) August 7, 2018
Let’s take a look at what actually happened and the how the events initiated over a tweet.
The Saudi government recently detained around 15 activities supposedly working for women’s rights for speaking out against the government. Samar Badawi was one of the activists who was held by the authorities in Saudi Arabia. The detained are facing serious charges that include contact with suspicious foreign parties which could lead to a 20-year sentence in prison. The Canadian foreign office, without understanding the grave seriousness of the situation, decided to tweet about the sensitive matter ignoring certain facts from the Saudi side. The tweet was sent out a day after Miss Samar Badawi was arrested by Saudi authorities.
— Majed Aleisa PhD, (@MajedAleisa) August 7, 2018
The tweet from Canada’s Foreign Policy handle says.
Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in #SaudiArabia, including Samar Badawi. We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists.
— Foreign Policy CAN (@CanadaFP) August 3, 2018
The tweet directly assumes the activists to be peaceful without mentioning any official statements from the Saudi government.
The Canadian foreign ministry spokesperson Marie-Pier Baril added to the statement saying:
“Canada will always stand up for the protection of human rights, including women’s rights and freedom of expression around the world. We will never hesitate to promote these values and we believe that this dialogue is critical to international diplomacy. Our government will never hesitate to promote these values and believes that this dialogue is critical to international diplomacy.” [BBC]
Out of the 15 arrested individuals, 8 were released by the authorities while the rest are still detained.
It also seems Saudi Arabia has the full support of the United States which is really significant because Canda is their neighbor and supposed ally.
By staying neutral in Saudi vs Canada, the US has effectively stood by Saudi. Canada is a NATO member and the closest country to the US but the US decided not to side with Canada on this, meaning it favours Saudi. I hope @JustinTrudeau shows leadership and rectifies situation
— Ghanem Nuseibeh (@gnuseibeh) August 7, 2018
Saudis don’t accept any interference in our internal affairs, we encourage our government to take further actions such as freezing all trade, investment and bilateral relations with #Canada
It’s funny Canadians changed their way from shoe smugglers to a global sheriff!?♂️? pic.twitter.com/P9rUpUAnAi
— بندر الجحدلي Bandar Aljahdali ?? (@BandarAAAlharbi) August 6, 2018
The Foreign Ministry of Saudi Arab responded to the tweet using strong words saying:
— Foreign Ministry ?? (@KSAmofaEN) August 5, 2018
The Ministry made it clear that the tweets from Canada “are not based [on] any accurate or true information”. It further ensured that all individuals were detained in line with Saudi Arabia’s laws.
Spox for #Saudi Min of Education says students & trainees on scholarship in #Canada will soon be transferred to other countries.
(Royal directive was issued to end programs after Canadian officials issued statement deemed as interference in domestic affairs of kingdom) https://t.co/T6QB7l3jgj
— Fahad Nazer فهد ناظر (@fanazer) August 6, 2018
The Saudi authorities gave the Canadian ambassador 24 hours to leave the country and also recalled their own ambassador for consultation. The trade ties between the two countries worth $3 billion were suspended as well. Canada and Saudi Arab recently signed the biggest export deal in Canada’s history worth $15 billion where Canada will provide light-armored vehicles to the kingdom. Canada also fulfills 10% of its oil needs by importing the crude oil from Saudi Arab.
#Saudis ?? woke up this morning with the news that #Canada ?? is trying to interfere with their countries internal affairs. The Saudi people were 100 percent behind their government. I don't think any other country will try to persuade saudis against their government again!
— Majed Aleisa PhD, (@MajedAleisa) August 6, 2018
All these deals are set to be frozen as the Saudi government has made it clear that it will not tolerate any dissent whatsoever regardless of where it comes from.
The response doesn’t stop here as Saudis look to send a clear message to the world about not involving themselves in the Kingdom’s matters. The Middle Eastern country suspended all direct flights of Saudi state’s airline to Canada as well following the message.
#SaudiArabia expels #Canada's Amb and freezes trade & investment in response to Canada's expressed concerns about arrests of activists. #EU silence is not an option: Stand up and speak out -against #Saudi crackdown on rights & its actions against Canada. https://t.co/LLcaUwKwUF
— Lotte Leicht (@LotteLeicht1) August 6, 2018
The Policy Change
Saudi Arabia has made a shift to a more diverse economy and ways of government under the management of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. This includes the liberation policy as well where the women were allowed to drive for the first time in years starting from June. The country is also moving towards technology and business while reducing its reliance on revenue through oil exports.
However, this policy change doesn’t mean that Saudi Arabia will let other countries interfere in their domestic matters. Speaking up against human rights is understandable, however, sending out tweets about a sovereign state before considering all facts showed lack of maturity from Canada. The Saudis further threatened that they will cut ties with every single Western country that interferes in their domestic matters.
The Canadian Ambassador and his government, if they are looking for human rights, should give indigenous people in Canada their rights. In Canada, 1,500,000 indigenous people are persecuted and marginalized and do not find medicine, food and rights, pic.twitter.com/QYnJZ7DjPU
— #أُسْتَاذ_مُشَارِكِ ?? (@KSA_F15_a) August 6, 2018
Lastly, there is no denying that the civil and women rights hold the utmost importance in Saudi Arabia but they also must ensure that the law is followed while bringing the arrested to justice.