The abusers are outraged at the criticism

Saudi Arabia is furious with Canada.

The storm started with a tweet by Canada’s foreign minister last week expressing alarm at the recent arrest of a women’s rights activist in Saudi Arabia who had relatives living in Canada, and calling for her release.

The activist is Samar Badawi, sister of Raif.

On Monday, the Saudi government responded, with fury.

The Canadian ambassador was ordered to leave within 24 hours, and the Saudi government halted trade and investment deals between the two countries. Saudi media reported that educational exchange programs would be suspended — affecting 12,000 Saudi students studying on state-sponsored scholarships in Canada. And Saudi Arabia’s national airline said it was suspending flights to Canada, beginning on Aug. 13.

Canada’s criticism had highlighted Saudi Arabia’s ongoing crackdown on perceived dissidents, including a group of prominent female activists who campaigned for the lifting of a driving ban on women and other rights.

In a statement early Monday, the Saudi Foreign Ministry described Canada’s criticism of the arrests as “blatant interference in the Kingdom’s domestic affairs, against basic international norms and all international protocols,” and an “unacceptable affront to the Kingdom’s laws and judicial process.”

No I don’t think that’s accurate. I don’t think it is an international norm that states must not criticize each other for human rights abuses. As for an affront…the “Kingdom’s” laws deserve to be affronted, since they are an affront to half the humans on the planet.

Two more activists were arrested last week, according to Human Rights Watch. One of the women, Nassima al-Sadah, had run for local elections and campaigned for abolishing so-called guardianship laws, which require women to seek approval from a male relative to travel or to marry. The other, Samar Badawi, received the U.S. secretary of state’s International Women of Courage Award and is the sister of dissident blogger Raif Badawi. Raif Badawi had been sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail in Saudi Arabia for “insulting Islam through electronic channels.” His wife, Ensaf Haidar, and their three children became Canadian citizens on Canada Day last month and live in Quebec.

Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s foreign affairs minister, said in a tweet Aug. 2 that she was “very alarmed” to learn of Samar’s arrest and that the government would “continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi.” Three days later, the Canadian Embassy in Saudi Arabia posted the Foreign Ministry’s statement calling for the release of the women’s rights advocates on its Twitter account, in Arabic, ensuring it would be more widely read by Saudis.

Well done Canada.

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