Saudi Arabia Orders Saudi Patients Transferred Out of Canadian Hospitals

Saudi Arabia has halted medical treatment of its citizens in Canada in a move that further intensifies the rift between the two countries.

Muhammed bin Selman

Saudi Arabia has halted medical treatment of its citizens in Canada in a move that further intensifies the rift between the two countries.

The conflict erupted following a statement by Canadian Global Affairs Department urging the Gulf Kingdom to release detained civil and human rights activists.

Dr. Fahd bin Ibrahim Al Tamimi, the Saudi Health Attaché in the United States and Canada, stated that Saudi Arabia had stopped all medical treatment of Saudi citizens and that Saudi authorities are arranging for all Saudi patients to be transferred out of Canadian hospitals to hospitals in other countries, in accordance with the directives of the King.

The reason for the transfer, according to the Saudi Health Attaché, is to ensure the safety of the Saudi patients.

The new dispute between Saudi Arabia and Canada arose after the Canadian Ministry of Global Affairs publicly denounced from its official Twitter account Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on civil society and women’s rights activists and demanded the immediate release of those jailed.

“Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia, including Samar Badawi. We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful human rights activists,” the Canadian ministry tweeted on Friday.

Samar Badawi is the sister of the famous Saudi blogger and human rights activist Raif Badawi and the wife of another jailed human rights activist, Waleed Abu al-Khair who was sentenced to fifteen years in prison. Samar, a women’s rights advocate and the recipient of the United States’ 2012 International Women of Courage Award, was arrested last week. Her brother, Raif Badawi, arrested in 2012, is serving a ten-year prison sentence along with 1000 lashes to be administered over 20 weeks.

“What I felt was indescribable. It was an indescribable mixture of sadness and pain . . . . It was painfully horrible to imagine what was happening to Raif,” said Ensaf Haidar, Raif’s wife, after hearing about the first flogging session.

Ensaf Haidar fled to Canada with her three children and was given asylum. She widely campaigned for the release of her husband and the other jailed activists in Saudi Arabia.

Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian FA minister, tweeted last Thursday: “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.”

In an abrupt response to the statements by Canadian officials, Saudi Arabia suspended its ties with Ottawa. On Monday, it recalled its envoy to Canada and directed the Canadian Embassy’s officials to leave the kingdom within 24 hours. Crown Prince MBS’s regime deemed those statements direct and illegitimate interference in the Kingdom’s internal affairs and an infringement on the country’s sovereignty.

The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs unleashed a series of tweets openly attacking the Canadian position.

“The Canadian position is an overt and blatant interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the Saudi foreign ministry tweeted.

“The Canadian position is a grave and unacceptable violation of the Kingdom’s laws and procedures. In addition to [being a] violat[ion of] the Kingdom’s judiciary and a breach of the principle of sovereignty.”

“KSA [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] through its history has not and will not accept any form of interfering in the internal affairs of the Kingdom. The KSA considers the Canadian position an attack on the KSA and requires a firm stance to deter [those] who attempt to undermine the sovereignty of the KSA.”

Saudi Arabia went so far as to voice what appeared to be an implicit threat that it would interfere in Canada’s domestic affairs if the latter continued to pursue its official and public criticism of Saudi’s internal affairs.

“Any other attempt to interfere with our internal affairs from Canada, means that we are allowed to interfere in Canada’s internal affairs.”

Saudi Arabia took several additional measures against Ottawa this week. In addition to cutting off diplomatic relations, it announced the suspension of all trade ties with the North American nation.

The Saudi state airline, Saudia, said it would suspend all flights to and from Toronto starting next Monday, August 13.

Saudi Arabia also cancelled the scholarships of 16,000 Saudi students in Canada, ordering them to find academic programs in other countries.