08/06/2018, 18.10
SAUDI ARABIA – CANADA
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Diplomatic crisis between Riyadh and Ottawa leads to trade freeze, ambassador expulsion

Saudis Arabia froze new trade relations and investments with Canada, slams the latter for what it deems an attack against its values. This follows Canadian government criticism over human rights violations in the kingdom. One of the latest people arrested in Saudi Arabia is Samar Badawi, sister of blogger Raif Badawi. So far, Canadian authorities have not yet reacted.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Saudi Arabia has frozen all new trade relations and investments with Canada, expelling the latter’s ambassador to Riyadh and recalling its own diplomatic envoy from Canada.

The Saudi action comes after Canada said it was "gravely concerned" about the arrests of several human rights activists in the kingdom.

Saudi authorities gave the Canadian ambassador 24 hours to leave the country, following a drastic and sudden decision that marks a low point in the relations between the two countries.

The anti-Canadian measure is a sign that Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, is taking a harsh stance against activists and the kingdom’s critics.

In recent weeks Saudi authorities have launched an "unprecedented government crackdown" against prominent figures, including Nassima al-Sadah and Samar Badawi, sister of the famous blogger Raif Badawi, who was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to 10 years in prison and a thousand lashes.

In April, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his "serious concern" over the continued jailing of Badawi to Saudi King Salman.

Badawi's wife Ensaf Haidar has been granted asylum by Canada, where she is raising their three children now aged 14, 13 and 10 as a single mother.

The kingdom reacted hard, slamming the Canadian position as "interference" in its internal affairs, freezing new investments in Canada and declaring Its ambassador persona non grata.

For the Saudi Foreign Ministry, Canada's position is an attack on the kingdom and its values, noting that the latter will retain “its right to take further action”.

So far, Canadian authorities have not officially reacted to Riyadh's diplomatic and trade move.

The ultraconservative kingdom is an absolute monarchy ruled in accordance with a fundamentalist interpretation of Sunni Islam. However, in recent years, it has introduced a series of reforms as part of the crown prince’s Vision 2030 plan.

One of the stated goals is the promotion of female employment, taking it from the current 22 per cent to more than 30 per cent by 2030. However, reforms are not about employment alone.

In June a ban on women driving was lifted (it had been announced last September) and women were allowed in the capital’s main stadium for national celebrations and football matches.

Despite the changes, there are still serious limitations, including a crackdown on those demanding greater rights and freedoms. Among those arrested, many are women.

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