Following Saudi Arabia’s expulsion of the Canadian ambassador after Canada called for the release of jailed civil rights activists, the kingdom has now suspended scholarships for about 16,000 students studying here.
Tension began to build on Thursday after Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland tweeted she was alarmed to learn that Samar Badawi, Raif Badawi’s sister, has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia.
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
Freeland’s tweet led to the kingdom ordering Canada’s ambassador Dennis Horak to leave the country within 24-hours and freezing all new trade and investment transactions with Canada on Sunday.
“We consider the Canadian ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia persona non grata and order him to leave within the next 24 hours,” Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry said on Twitter.
— Foreign Ministry 🇸🇦 (@KSAmofaEN) August 6, 2018
“We are deeply concerned that Saudi Arabia has expelled Canada’s ambassador in response to Canadian statements in defence of human rights activists detained in the kingdom,” said Freeland in a statement.
“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.
Freeland added that The Embassy of Canada to Saudi Arabia, in Riyadh will continue its regular operations, including consular services.
“Canada will continue to advocate for human rights and for the brave women and men who push for these fundamental rights around the world.”
Following this move, a new report from Saudi-owned media outlet Al Arabiya revealed that “training, scholarships and fellowships” for Saudi students in Canada are now being shelved.
The report also said all Saudi Arabian students currently studying in Canada will be transferred to other countries.
In a tweet Monday, Bessma Momani, an expert on Middle East issues and a political science professor at the University of Waterloo said the affected Saudi students are now left “scrambling with what to do with their lives. Unjust!”
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