Saudi Arabia's diplomatic dispute with Canada: An explainer

There were 327 Saudi students at Mc Gill University last year.					Marie France Coallier  Montreal Gazette

Saudi Arabia says it will withdraw all of its students studying in Canada in an intensifying rift between the two countries over the kingdom's human-rights record.

Transport Canada did not immediately respond to request for comment on the decision.

The United Nations has sounded the alarm over what it considers a wave of "arbitrary detentions of human-rights defenders", in the past few months.

Saudi Airlines tweeted earlier today announcing the suspension.

The sudden and unexpected dispute bore the hallmarks of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's 32-year-old future leader, whose recent foreign policy exploits include the war in Yemen, the boycott of Qatar and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri's surprise resignation broadcast during a visit to the kingdom.

"Canada does not understand its place and it tried to impose itself on the Kingdom's policies in its ministry of foreign affairs statement as if to place itself above other countries in the world", he said.

The Saudi government said in a statement: "We have put on hold all new business and investment transactions with Canada while retaining its right to take further action".

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Amnesty International has said Badawi, the sister of jailed blogger Raif Badawi, was recently detained along with Nassima al-Sada, another prominent female activist. Canadian exports to Saudi Arabia totaled about $1.12 billion in 2017, or 0.2 percent of the total value of Canadian exports.

"Canada will always stand up for the protection of human rights, very much including women's rights, and freedom of expression around the world", a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said, stressing that Canada was "seeking greater clarity" from the Saudi government.

'There isn't a strong bilateral trade relationship and poking the Trudeau government likely resonates with Saudi's hawkish regional allies.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and first lady Michelle Obama present the 2012 International Women of Courage Award to Samar Badawi of Saudi Arabia, on the 101st Anniversary of International Women's Day, Thursday, March 8, 2012, at the State Department in Washington. "And by hitting Canada - which is big enough to matter but small enough not to be a risk to Saudi - he sends a message elsewhere", Kliment said.

According to The Globe and Mail, citing a Saudi government source, more than 15,000 Saudis are studying in Canada on government-funded courses or grants at universities, colleges, or other institutions.

The Twitter account belonging to infographic_KSA, who describe themselves as "a voluntary non-profit project managed by a group of Saudi youth who are interested in technology and social media", but widely seen as a pro- Saudi government, initially posted the threatening photo with the words: "Sticking one's nose where it doesn't belong!"

Soon after, the Saudi ministry of media said it had shut down the account amid an investigation into a complaint over it.

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