If an insect bit you, it committed what could be considered a crime against your person. It attacked you. Aside from being an irritant and bringing a general feeling of disgust, knowing that a six-legged creature that normally dwells in moist, dark, quarters brought its fangs to pierce skin, who knows what sort of diseases the creature has wrought with its violence. So what does a person do? Most people would quickly kill the insect with a strike of a palm or with a rolled-up newspaper. Others would swat the creature away, blame the act on its instinct or other innocuous causes and just move on. Afterwards, perhaps do something to prevent being bitten again.
A child however would sometimes be cruel. They would mete out punishment by slowly torturing the poor creature. Perhaps they would tear its limbs out one by one, or maybe slowly burn it with a magnifying glass.
This is how the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia does justice. It crucified a person in public in the holy city of Mecca. Though rare, it often uses capital punishment for crimes such as anti-government activism and homosexuality. It is abhorrent. As much as the west hates on ISIS and how violent they can be on what they perceive as transgressors, Saudi Arabia sees them eye to eye on many of these issues.
Canada recently sent out a couple of tweets calling out Saudi Arabia to release the activist Samar Badawi and her brother who were both arrested for speaking out against the government. Samar Badawi is famous for leading the fight for women’s rights in the country. She spoke out against Saudi’s guardianship system as well as advocated for women’s right to drive. Now, I’m not a big advocate for diplomacy via Twitter. It is a clumsy tool, and diplomacy is anything but clumsy. When Canada sent out those tweets, it publicly shamed Saudi Arabia for what it’s currently doing in terms of human rights. And while they do deserve public shaming, I don’t think public shaming is something that diplomats should do.
But if Canada committed an error in publicly shaming Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia acts exaggeratedly by calling it an “attack on the kingdom,” what do you call their tweet in response? Didn’t their message with an Air Canada plane headed towards the CN Tower explicitly threaten a terrorist retaliation against Canada? Did it also not implicitly admit to being responsible for the attack on 9/11? And again, this was just a response over a call to release activists fighting for human rights. Don’t speak up for human rights or else we’ll send terrorist planes your way? Canada is dealing with a child.
And this child is aiming to hurt Canada through education and future investments. Cutting off current trade doesn’t necessarily impact Canada tremendously, but removing Saudi students from Canadian universities and cutting off future investments could hurt Canada in the long run. I’m glad that Canada doesn’t appear to be showing any signs of backing down from its stance, but I really hope other countries join us in standing up against this evil government.
Mohammed Bin Salman is not a reformer. People need to stop saying this. He is a young leader who inherited his position. Much like North Korea’s Kim Jung Un, he got infinitely lucky in the birth lottery. And while he tries to create a progressive Saudi image by having more foreign investments and recently allowing women in the country to drive, he fights Qatar, kidnaps the Lebanese Prime Minister, and arrests and holds hostage the country’s rich and political elites in an attempt to consolidate power. The country continues to crack down and arrest its own people for simply erring grievances against the government. It continues to punch down on Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the region, creating its own humanitarian crisis (I don’t know if Saudi Arabia has ever had to punch up in a military conflict). Mohammad Bin Salman is not a true friend of the west. He is Kim Jung Un with oil money. Saudi Arabia is attacking Canada as a warning to all other western countries who would choose to criticize the kingdom for its domestic and international abuses. Instead of military threats, their government will use their purse strings to punish other countries. They save physical violence on their own people as well as weaker countries.
As for the criticism that Canada should stick its nose to where it belongs, Samar Badawi’s brother is Raif Badawi, an author and an activist himself. Like his sister, he was arrested for his anti-government activities and sentenced to ten years in prison and 1000 lashes, fifty of which he has already received. His wife is a Canadian. The Canadian government is looking after its own. But even if this wasn’t the case, it should be the responsibility of every rational government to speak out when one of its allies or partners is violating human rights. A true friend and ally would want its allies and friends to be better. If you see your brother pulling out an insect’s legs one by one, you’ll put a stop to it and teach him a lesson about cruelty and kindness. This is what Canada did. And for that, we just got threatened with a 9/11 attack.