RIYADH: Saudi Arabia notably angry with Canada has suspended scholarships for Saudi students in Canadian universities, colleges and other schools and plans to relocate them to other countries.
There are more than 8,000 from Saudi Arabia enrolled in programmes in Canada, according to figures released by the official Saudi Press Agency in 2017.
The Saudi government was also putting together an “urgent plan” to transfer students and interns already in Canada to US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, it said.
Riyadh, which suspended diplomatic relations with Canada on Monday, will “stop training, scholarship and fellowship programs” there, state-run Al-Ekhbariya television reported.
These students, many of them studying medicine, are accompanied by more than 6,400 dependents.
The unusually harsh response comes after Canada’s diplomatic department tweeted denouncing and demanding the immediate release of human rights activists detained, including the sister of jailed blogger Raif Badawi in the kingdom.
“Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia, including Samar Badawi,” it posted. “We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful human rights activists.”
The kingdom early Monday expelled Canada‘s envoy Dennis Horak giving him 24 hours to leave the country, and recalled its own envoy to Ottawa, while freezing or “put on hold all new business and investment transactions with Canada” what it slammed as “interference” in its internal affairs.
– ‘Unprecedented crackdown’ –
Samar Badawi was arrested along with fellow campaigner Nassima al-Sadah last week, the latest victims of what Human Rights Watch called an “unprecedented government crackdown on the women’s rights movement”.
Samar’s brother, blogger Raif Badawi, was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for “insulting Islam” in a case that sparked an international outcry.