Demand all nations who truly value Human Rights back Canada over criticism of Saudi Arabia
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Where does the world stand on Human Rights, and in particular the rights of women? Canada has made a stand regarding the Human Rights of the Badawis, and other female activists in Saudi Arabia, yet U.K., U.S., and the rest of the world has failed to back Canada, despite extreme retaliation by Saudi Arabia. Are trade deals worth more to UK, US and other nations’ governments than Human Rights?
As a mother of 4 girls, I am asking you to sign, requesting that all nations in the world that have compassion and truly value Human Rights, back Canada over this matter. Failure to do so might set a precedent that it is perfectly acceptable for countries to ignore Human Rights whenever they choose to because the rest of the world chooses to turn a blind eye.
Saudi Arabia has a female guardianship system, which Human Rights Watch has called “the most significant impediment to realising women’s rights in the country”. All women in the kingdom are considered to have a male “wali” – an official guardian, typically a father, brother, uncle or husband.
Although guardianship is not enshrined in written law, government officials, courts, businesses and individual Saudis generally act in accordance with it, meaning that, in practice, women need their guardian’s consent for any major activity, including travel, obtaining a passport, getting married or divorced and signing contracts.
The system makes it “nearly impossible” for victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse to obtain legal redress because the police often insist that women and girls obtain their guardian's authorisation to file a complaint - even when the complaint is against the guardian
Since May, a number of leading women’s rights activists and campaigners in Saudi Arabia - including Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Yousef - have been detained for their peaceful human rights work. Many have been detained without charge, and may face trial before the counter-terror court and up to 20 years in prison for their activism. Others detained recently include women’s rights activists Nouf Abdulaziz and Maya’a al-Zahrani, and activists who have previously been persecuted for their human rights work, such as Mohammed al-Bajadi and Khalid al-Omeir.
Extremely concerned members of the Canadian government posted the following tweets that called on Saudi Arabia to release detained women’s rights activists:
“Very alarmed to learn that Samar Badawi, Raif Badawi’s sister, has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia,” the Aug. 3 tweet read. “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.”
“Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and woman’s rights activists in #Saudi Arabia, including Samar Badawi,” another Aug. 3 tweet read. “We urge Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists.”
The tweets referred to Samar Badawi and her writer brother Raif Badawi. He was arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for criticising Islam while blogging. His case has long been raised by international human rights groups and Western diplomats, including Canadians, who have called on Saudi Arabia to free him. Raif Badawi’s wife and three children became Canadian citizens earlier this year
Saudi Arabia responded by expelling the Canadian ambassador and ordering 15,000 Saudi students, including about 800 medical trainees, to halt their studies in Canada. The Saudi state airline also announced it was suspending operations in Canada. The kingdom also canceled new trade with Canada and barred Canadian wheat imports. The Financial Times reported that the Saudi central bank and state pension funds instructed their overseas asset managers to dispose of their Canadian equities, bonds and cash holdings.
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Media said it is investigating a pro-Saudi government Twitter account that posted a photo of an Air Canada plane heading toward the CN Tower, eerily reminiscent of the 9/11 attacks. The tweet was accompanied by a message that contained a saying: “He who interferes with what doesn’t concern him finds what doesn’t please him.”
Canada’s government has expressed alarm at the moves but has not backtracked or apologized. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he doesn’t want bad relations with Saudi Arabia, but added that Canada will continue to speak out on human rights.
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