Saudi Arabia Expels Canadian Envoy After Calls To Release Activists

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“Canada and all other nations need to know that they can't claim to be more concerned than the kingdom over its own citizens.”

 

Saudi Arabia ordered the Canadian ambassador to leave the kingdom within 24 hours and suspended all new trade and investment deals with the country. The move came after the Canadian foreign ministry criticized the arrest of activists and urged the ultraconservative kingdom to release them.

A statement carried out by state-run media said Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Canada is also recalled.

“Any further step from the Canadian side in that direction will be considered as acknowledgment of our right to interfere in the Canadian domestic affairs. Canada and all other nations need to know that they can't claim to be more concerned than the kingdom over its own citizens,” read the statement

Ambassador Dennis Horak is also the Canadian representative to Yemen, Bahrain and Oman. However, it remains unclear if he was in the kingdom when the order was issued.

The aggressive move by the kingdom came as Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland expressed her concern over the detained activists.

She specifically called for the release of Samar Badawi, who is the sister of Raif Badawi, a writer and secular activist who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for “insulting Islam through electronic channels” in 2012.

 

Freeland’s criticism was followed by another critical tweet by the Canadian Department of Global Affairs that called for “immediate release” of the detained activists.

“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,” read the tweet.

In May, Saudi Arabia reportedly arrested 17 activists.  Among those who were detained included women who challenged the kingdom by getting in cars and driving. The men who supported these women were also reportedly detained.

Adding to that list, two more women’s rights activists were recently arrested after the government launched a crackdown on activists, scholars and journalists, curtailing freedom of speech and a fight for rights in Saudi Arabia.

The recent arrest included the arrest of Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah, who had campaigned for women's right to drive and for lifting of the male guardianship system.

The arrests come as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman makes significant changes in the kingdom’s policy for a much more modernized approach.

The kingdom saw its first cinema opening in decades, in a complete overhaul of the usual Saudi social practices.

The country also commenced its first fashion week showcasing international designers and proposed a program that calls for an end to the draconian gender segregation that has been followed in kingdom for a very long time.

However, in reality, women’s rights still have a long way to go in the country.

Spotlight, Banner: Reuters, Faisal Al Nasser

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