Saudi Arabia's row with Canada: Silencing Western criticism?

Roman Schwartz
August 10, 2018

"We're always going to speak up for woman's rights and that's not going to change", she said, adding that it wasn't the first time Canada has spoken out about human rights in Saudi Arabia", she said.

Along with throwing out the Canadian ambassador and suspending air service between the two countries, Saudi Arabia is demanding thousands of its students leave Canada for new locations.

On Tuesday, Saudi's main state wheat agency told traders it had stopped buying Canadian-origin wheat and barley.

Egypt said on Tuesday it supported Saudi Arabia in a political row with Canada, and stood in "solidarity" with the Gulf Arab kingdom against foreign interference in its domestic affairs. "We can only stand with Saudi Arabia in defending its sovereignty and taking the necessary measures to protect its laws", Anwar Gargash, the minister of state for foreign affairs in the United Arab Emirates, tweeted Monday.

"Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this hard time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi", Freeland tweeted.

Amnesty International noted Ms Badawi has been repeatedly targeted and interrogated by Saudi security forces for her human rights activist.

The moves were a stern rebuke to Canada after the country on Friday expressed concern over the arrests of activists in Saudi Arabia, including prominent women's rights campaigner Samar Badawi, and called for their release.

Canada had been eager to boost investment and exports to Saudi Arabia as the kingdom diversifies its economy.

According to the Toronto Star, Canada's largest export recently has been armoured tanks and personnel carriers.

How did Saudi Arabia react?

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"Bahrain regrets Canada's position, based on totally erroneous information that has nothing to do with reality on the ground", Bahrain's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

Ms Badawi is known for challenging Saudi Arabia's male guardianship system.

"Canada will continue to advocate for human rights and for the courageous women and men who push for these fundamental rights around the world", she said in a statement.

"They are very popular students", Pike said.

Saudi Arabia also suspended "all new business" and joint educational exchange programs with Canada.

"We're reaching out ... to identify their circumstances, what their needs are, whether they have families with them", she said.

Among those detained by Riyadh is Loujain al-Hathloul, 28, who appeared with the Duchess of Sussex, then Meghan Markle, at a One Young World summit in Canada two years ago where they were pictured in a Vanity Fair photoshoot. "And of course, Irving sells most of its product into the United States, not Canada", he said.

Momani called it, "getting tough on Canada", which she said other countries in the region might welcome if they view Canadian foreign policy to be led by human rights concerns.

"The Saudis have seriously inconvenienced 15,000 of their citizens in order to make a point and, given the unpredictability of Saudi foreign policy, I think it's anyone's guess what might happen to that deal".

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