Just got word that indeed Saudis are telling their students (16,000+) in Canada to return home. Scholarships will be rescinded. This is awful for these students, many who are not likely to be in Canada over the summer but now scrambling with what to do with their lives. Unjust!— Bessma Momani (@b_momani) August 6, 2018
Saudi Arabia is reportedly cancelling scholarships of nearly 16,000 students studying in Canada as the tensions continue to escalate between the two countries.
The clash began earlier this week after the Canadian foreign ministry criticized the ultraconservative kingdom over its appalling human rights record. Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and her department slammed the recent arrests of rights activists and called for their immediate release.
Very alarmed to learn that Samar Badawi, Raif Badawi’s sister, has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this difficult time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi.— Chrystia Freeland (@cafreeland) August 2, 2018
In retaliation, Saudi Arabia ordered Canadian Ambassador Dennis Horak – who is also the Canadian representative to Yemen, Bahrain and Oman – to leave the kingdom within 24 hours and suspended all new trade and investment deals with the country. Shortly after, Saudi state airlines also cancelled flights in and out of Toronto.
Now, widening the rift even further, the Saudi Arabian Cultural Bureau, which is a wing of the country's Ministry of Education, has ordered all Saudi students attending Canadian universities, colleges and other schools on government-funded scholarships and grants to leave the country and seek admission elsewhere.
According to the reports, all sponsorship programs will be suspended in September – a decision that would undoubtedly have a dire effect on the future prospects of thousands of students and their families.
“I’m concerned about those students, but we still need to stand by our position that we support human rights in the world,” Bessma Momani, a political science professor at the University of Waterloo, told The Star in an interview. “I don’t think, understanding Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy, that they’re going to climb down from this, so we’re at an impasse.”
It’ll also be a huge setback for several Canadian institutions.
“For Canadian universities, this is a significant hit. Saudi Arabia is the fourth largest contingent of foreign students in this country,” Thomas Juneau, an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, told The Globe and Mail. “The main purpose for Saudi Arabia here is not to penalize Canada per se. ... This is a message to Western countries: stop criticizing us on human rights or else we will retaliate.”
Unfortunately, students are not the only ones caught in the crosshair of this diplomatic feud, as local media claimed Saudi Arabia will also not be transferring any of its patients to Canada for medical treatment anymore.
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