OPINION

Between OTTAWA and RIYADH- DAGGERS DRAWN ON DIPLOMATIC FRONTS

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By: Mushtaq Hurra 

Samar Albadwi is a famous human rights activist of Saudi Arabia who has become a media sensation, and the root cause of escalations and soaring temperatures between Riyadh and Ottawa.The bitterness in diplomatic relations between the two nations began when Canada’s minister of foreign affairs, Miss Christia Freeland castigated Saudi government for detaining Samar Albadwi.Samar is very famous in Europe and America.She had tried to contest local bodies elections in Saudi Arabia in 2011 but her papers were rejected.She initiated a campaign to empower Saudi women including the permission for coincidentally, king crown prince Salman has granted the driving permission to Saudi women. America’s department of state has rewarded Samar Albadwi for her efforts to empower Saudi women. Former first lady of America, Miss Mitchell Obama and Hillary Clinton presented her the award at a splendid function in Whitehouse. Samar Albadwi was arrested by Saudi administration on 30th of last month along with Naseema Alsada. It provoked Canadian foreign affairs minister to release a harsh press statement against Saudi Arabia government.

The association of Albadwi family with Canada is not confined to Samar Only.Her brother, Raif Albadwi, a blogger, was prosecuted by Saudi government for writing rude and impudent blogs against Saudi liberals. In 2011, Raif was sentenced to 10 rigorous imprisonment with 1000 lashes. Human rights watch had registered strong protest against Raif’s sentence but Saudi Arabian government paid no heed to it. Meanwhile , in 2015, Raif’s wife , Ensaf Haidar managed to flee from Saudi Arabia and took political refuge in Canada. She organized rallies in different US cities and other parts of the world, demanding her husband’s release. Recently, She was granted with Canadian citizenship, and instantly, with the help of some legislators , threatened to move a condemnatory resolution in the national assembly of Canada. Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau knew the sensitivity of the issue and didn’t want to intervene in the internal affairs of Saudi Arabia but the active anti-Islamic lobby of Canada pressurized Prime minister Trudeau , and he advised, Christia Freeland, the minister of foreign affairs, to release a statement of condemnation against Samar Albadwi’s detention though the motive of anti-Islamic lobby was intending to mount pressure on Saudi government against Raif Albadwi’s detention.It is interesting to note here that Raif has been sentenced by the court of law while as Samar is just under remand and her case is yet to be decided by a law court.As soon as, Ottawa released the statement of condemnation; Saudi Arabia reacted vehemently and expelled the Canadian ambassador, Mr. Dennis Horak from Riyadh.

Saudi airlines cancelled all its flights to Canada.All the trade agreements between the two nations have ceased , and Saudi Arabia has directed its students studying in Canada not to continue their academic endeavors there.Even , it has asked its students in Canada to return back to Riyadh, immediately. Saudi patients under treatment in different Canadian hospitals  have been asked to leave the country and look for alternatives either in America or in Europe.Oil supply to Canada has been stopped and the Saudi trade and commercial establishments in Canada are being sold.Canadian share market is shaking and looking unstable  since the strained diplomatic ties between the two nations.

Saudi foreign minister, Mr. Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir has said that Miss Christia Freeland’s statement is a brazen intervention by Canada in the internal affairs of Saudi Arabia and Saudi government can’t bear it at any cast.He further stated that there is no role of arbitration as France and European Union had offered arbitrary support to normalize ties between the two nations.

The breach between the two nations is vivid and open. The skirmishes began way back in 2014 when Saudi Arabia signed an agreement with Ottawa to purchase light armored vehicles for its national guards. According to the agreement, Canada will sell light armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia worth one billion dollars every year for 15 years. The deal proved extremely profitable for Canada as it has created thousands of job opportunities in Canada. These light armored vehicles are capable of carrying machine guns and 105mm mortar. According to the manufacturers of the light armored vehicles – General Dynamics of Canada, the bullet proof vehicles are designed for military purposes.

According to some reports, Saudi national guards have made use of these vehicles to trample Shia protesters in the Eastern province city of Qatif during 2012 to 2015.Saudi government negated these reports since no picture or video was produced in the evidence. Riyadh has termed these allegations baseless and said that these light armored vehicles are used to protect the international border against possible intrusion of smugglers and ISIS militants.

Besides stern opposition from different human right watchdogs, former Canadian prime minister – Stephen Harper had decided to sell these light armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia. Canadian economy was in dolldrums then, and the big deal of 15 billion dollars was sure to add a new lease of life to weak economy of the country.His successor, Justin Trudeau didn’t cancel the deal after assuming power besides pressure from different quarters.

Saudi Arabian defense minister Mohammad Bin Salman has expressed his country’s concerns over the alleged opposition to the deal. All the stakeholders from Canada, including General Dynamics – the manufacturers of the vehicles and the government officials assured him the delivery of the vehicles in time. Meanwhile, Sweden, Germany France have put restrictions on any arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

Christia Freeland’s statement, in the backdrop of all these developments has enraged Riyadh, and it has registered its strong reaction against Canada. Diplomatic experts believe that Saudi crown prince Salman has reiterated his stand to safeguard country’s sovereignty at any cast. He made it clear that his  country won’t fell prey to anti-Muslim western lobby and every attempt to blackmail Saudi Arabia will dealt with strong hands. Prince Salman said that Saudi Arabia is ready to bear any loss but won’t compromise on country’s integrity. Meanwhile Salman has allegedly talked to US president Donald Trump who wishes Riyadh to use America’s bullet proof vehicles in case the agreement with Ottawa is cancelled.Some sources believe that Jurad kushner, the son-in-law of President Trump has offered bullet proof vehicles to Saudi Arabia on attractive conditions so Riyadh has intensified its diplomatic war against Canada. The alleged offer made by USA has soured the relations between Canada and America. Both the countries have levied heavy taxes on different items of import from both the sides which has broken the backs of commoners.

The writer is a teacher and can be reached at [email protected]

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