Canada fell out with Saudi Arabia

International conflict has arisen due to human rights

Earlier, the Saudi Foreign Ministry recalled its ambassador from Ottawa and declared the Canadian ambassador to Riyadh persona non grata, ordering him to leave the country within 24 hours. Also, all new trade and investment operations between countries were discontinued. The reason for the crisis was the remark by Canadian Foreign Minister Hristi Freeland about the detention of human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, perceived by Riyadh as interference in the internal affairs of the country. Saudi Arabia has recently positioned itself as a modern state, embarked on the path of reform, but international human rights organizations are increasingly expressing concern about the violation of human rights by Riyadh.

The largest international organizations on Tuesday expressed their position on the diplomatic crisis between Canada and Saudi Arabia. European Commission spokeswoman Maia Kosyancic said Tuesday that the European Union is awaiting clarification from Saudi Arabia about the series of arrests of human rights defenders, which began in May of this year. At the same time, she noted that the EU does not comment on bilateral relations. “We always support dialogue,” she said.

On the other hand, the actions of Canada condemned the League of Arab States and the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf – the most important international organizations of the Muslim world. Also, the decision of Saudi Arabia to protect its sovereignty was supported by the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Palestine, Mauritania and Sudan earlier Tuesday.

The USA, being the main ally for Canada and Saudi Arabia, is still neutral. However, on Monday, State Department officials said that Washington had requested information about the detention of Saudi human rights defenders and is awaiting further comments from Riyadh.

The diplomatic crisis began on August 2 after the call of Canadian Foreign Minister Hristi Freeland to release Saudi human rights defenders Raif Badawi and his sister Samar, which she published on her Twitter account. In response, the Saudi Foreign Ministry on Sunday recalled its ambassador from Canada, expressing outrage at the interference in the sovereign affairs of the state. The Ambassador of Canada was declared persona non grata and received an order to leave the country within 24 hours. In addition, all new trade and investment operations between countries, joint educational programs and Saudi Arabian Airlines flights to Toronto were discontinued. “Canada is pleased with its position. We will always stand up for the protection of human rights, for the protection of women’s rights. This position will not change, ”commented Hristia Freeland on the actions of Riyadh.

Freedom House’s Middle East project leader Samah Hadid called on countries with significant influence in Saudi Arabia, the United States, the United Kingdom and France to follow the lead of Canada and step up pressure on Riyadh to stop curbing freedom of speech.

Raif Badawi, the creator of the Saudi Arabia Liberal Network website, was arrested in 2012 for criticizing members of the clergy and religious police of the kingdom. He was accused of insulting Islam, cybercrime and disobedience to his father. He is serving a ten-year jail sentence, his wife and children have received Canadian citizenship. Samar is also known for her human rights activities. In 2012, she received a State Department award for her contribution to the development of women’s rights. She was arrested last week along with another human rights activist.

Since May, more than ten human rights activists have been arrested. The arrests coincided with the women’s right to drive a car in Saudi Arabia. This was one of the steps to implement the reform program Vision 2030, which aims to transform life in Saudi Arabia – from economy to culture. The Kingdom strives to position itself as a modern state, where, among other things, freedom of speech and women’s rights are respected. At the same time, human rights organizations note that many of those who fought for these rights for decades are still in prison. As stated in an interview with “Kommersant” by the Minister of the Kingdom for the media Awwad al-Awwad, “the recent arrests were not related to the situation around the rights of women, they were associated with specific crimes, as confirmed by the relevant decisions of the courts of the kingdom”