Tensions are high between Saudi Arabia and Canada. After Saudi Arabia expelled the Canadian ambassador from their country, they now want their students in Canada to study somewhere else. There are about 16,000 students from Saudi Arabia who are currently studying in Canada. The Saudi government has frozen their scholarships and given them all orders to find a school in a different country. Once they do, their scholarships will be reinstated.
The whole dispute between the two nations started after Canada defended the human rights activists who were arrested in Saudi Arabia recently. In response to their criticism, the kingdom is suspending all fellowships, training, and scholarship programs for the Saudi students in Canada. Most of these students were only able to study in Canada because of a scholarship program that was financed by King Abdullah. This program pays for all their college tuition, airfare, and even a fixed amount of their living expenses. Some of the students are even Saudi doctors that are only in Canada to receive further specialized training in their respective medical fields.
The Canadian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Dennis Horak, was given 24 hours to leave the country. Not only that, the Saudi ambassador to Canada was also ordered to leave and return to the kingdom. However, the controversies don’t end there. Saudi Arabia is now freezing various investment and trade deals they previously made with them. Canada gets about 10% of its crude oil imports from Saudi Arabia. Canada also exports billions of dollars’ worth of armored vehicles to the kingdom. Now, this is all on hold.
The controversy was fueled by a series of tweets from various Canadian officials over the situation in Saudi Arabia regarding the women’s rights activists that were arrested there. Canadian officials tweeted that these activists should be released immediately. One of the activists was Samar Badawi, whose brother was detained back in 2012 for blogging insults about Islam. After being convicted of this crime against Islam, the man, Raif, was sentenced to receive 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison. Meanwhile, his wife was granted citizenship in Canada back in July.
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
The students from Saudi Arabia have until the end of August to leave Canada. They can return home or attend a university in another country. However, considering the short notice of the decision and with many admissions deadlines having passed, it may be hard for these students to find another university and not interrupt the course of their studies.