When Saudi Arabia issued its first driver’s licenses to women in June (!), many considered it a big first step towards a more progressive future under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Then, starting in May, the Saudi government began arresting women’s rights activists. More than a dozen are currently in detention. This did not sit well with the Canadian government:
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.
— Foreign Policy CAN (@CanadaFP) August 3, 2018
Lest you think the tweet above is any indication of “not sitting well,” because the Saudi response to Canada’s recommendation was balls to the wall.
Within days, Canada’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Dennis Horak, was given 24 hours to get out of Riyadh. Saudi Arabia also recalled its ambassador to Canada from Ottawa.
But that was just the beginning of the beef. The Saudi government called on all trade deals between the two countries to be frozen, cancelled educational exchange programs, including scholarships and fellowships, and said Saudi students in Canada will be relocated to other countries. About 16,000 Saudi students currently study in Canada. Oh, and Saudi Arabia’s federal airline suspended all flights into and out of Toronto.
Most insane of all, a Saudi non-profit chimed in by posting a photo on Twitter that shows an Air Canada jet heading towards the CN Tower in a very 9/11 way along with the caption, “He who interferes with what doesn’t concern him finds what doesn’t please him.”
So, what the hell? Turns out the worst thing you can do as a country is to meddle – if that’s what you consider tweeting – in the Saudi kingdom’s affairs.
“It is quite unfortunate to see the phrase ‘immediate release’ in the Canadian statement, which is a reprehensible and unacceptable use of language between sovereign states,” Riyadh said in calling Canada’s tweet “a blatant interference in the kingdom’s domestic affairs, against basic international norms and all international protocols.”
The whole thing ended with a threat: “Any other attempt to interfere with our internal affairs from Canada means that we are allowed to interfere in Canada’s internal affairs.”
We eagerly await Trump’s word on the matter.