Tension between Saudi Arabia and Canada has escalated to an all time high as conflict has grown between diplomats in person and online. On August 6th, a pro-government Saudi account posted a seemingly threatening infographic on their twitter account before deleting it.
According to The Guardian, this image was seen as a thinly veiled reference to 9/11, including a plane flying into a skyscraper. Additionally, 15 of the 19 hijackers who attacked on 9/11 were of Saudi origin according to the FBI.
The tension between Saudi Arabia and Canada began when Canada’s Global Affairs Twitter account tweeted the statement below detailing concerns about human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia in light of the recent mistreatment of women’s rights activists.
According to İyad el-Baghdadi, Saudi news outlets have been reporting on various issues found in Canada since the conflict began from prison reform to the late notorious Holocaust-denier, Ernest Zundel. There has also been an uptick in Saudi support for both Quebecois independence and indigenous Canadian rights.
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
The consequences of this diplomatic conflict has affected people’s’ daily lives. The Saudi government has ordered all students studying in Canada to return to Saudi Arabia within the month of August.
As stated by The Independent, this has massive consequences for the Saudi-Canadian community. Many students will be unable to finish their bachelor’s degrees or complete their PHDs. Future doctors will be forced to cut medical training short to adhere to the restrictive timeline.
Along with removing all Saudi citizens from Canada, Saudi Arabia is also selling off all Canadian assets. According to the Financial Times, Saudi asset managers have been ordered to dispose of all Canadian equities, bonds and cash holdings despite any potential economic consequences. More extreme measures have also been taken including halting Saudi Arabian flights into Canada and expelling the Canadian ambassador.
Saudi Arabia’s heavy response is a result of the disrespect associated with what the government has called “meddling in its affairs.” While Crown Prince Salman is known to be more progressive than his predecessors, he still takes hard stances on foreign policy including being defensive of his country.
— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) June 27, 2018
Saudi Arabia and Canada have introduced unorthodox elements into this diplomatic stand-off. For instance, Saudi Arabia brought famous Canadian psychology professor Jordan Peterson into the fold. Vanity Fair reported that Saudi Arabia called Peterson a political prisoner, specifically a “prisoner of conscious” under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government.
A series of videos from Saudi news outlet Al Arabiya stated he holds this status due to his conservative views on gender and sexuality. While many people in Canada disagree with Peterson’s inflexible perspective on these matters, many Saudi citizens find that their stances align with his.
Jordan Peterson’s reaction to his unconsented involvement is one of amusement. He has otherwise not taken an official stance on the brewing Saudi-Canadian debacle.
It is likely that tension will continue between Canada and Saudi Arabia even after the immediate diplomatic and media-based battles are resolved due to the fact that more and more western nations have committed to holding countries, such as Saudi Arabia, accountable for human rights abuses.