Saudi dispute not expected to have much impact on TRU after all

Story updated Tuesday, Aug. 7, 11:30 a.m.

A diplomatic row between Canada and Saudi Arabia isn’t expected to have much impact on student enrolment at Thompson Rivers University.

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A weekend story by KTW that said TRU could lose one-tenth of its international students due to Saudi Arabia cutting off relationships with Canada and ordering its students to return home was wrong.

That story was based on out-of-date information on the university’s website, which indicated 256 of its international students come from that country. Last year, there were 23 registered in the first term and 29 in the second term. Ten were registered for the upcoming term.

TRU executive communications manager Darshan Lindsay said the website will be updated this week.

Lindsay say the university is meeting with all students to assess their situation and needs.

“We anticipate the majority, if not all, that are currently enrolled are impacted by this decision,” she said. The Saudi recall affects students receiving scholarships from that government.

“Our goal is to support them and make their transition home go as smoothly as possible.”

The issue that led to this diplomatic impasse involves Saudi police arresting human-rights activist Samar Badawi and others last week. Samar’s brother, Raif Badawi, is a blogger who was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for criticizing the Saudi clerics, for which he was convicted of “insulting Islam.”

The arrests last week brought criticism from the Canadian government.

On Thursday, Aug. 2, Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s foreign minister, sent out a tweet regarding human rights in the Middle East kingdom.

“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.”

The official Twitter account of Global Affairs Canada also sent out a tweet, on Friday, Aug. 3: “Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in #SaudiArabia, including Samar Badawi. We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists.”

As a result of the Canadian government tweets, Saudi Arabia expelled Canada’s ambassador to the country, Dennis Horak, and recalled its envoy in Canada. Saudi Arabia also froze all trade with Canada and, according to the Saudi government-owned Al-Arabiya news agency, will transfer all students studying in Canada who are receiving government scholarships to other countries.

The TRU spokesperson said it wasn’t clear how many of the Saudi students on campus receive that kind of funding.

© 2018 Kamloops This Week

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