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August 7, 2018 No.
7613

Against Backdrop Of Saudi-Canadian Tension, Saudi Twitter Account Tweets Hint Of Possible 9/11-Style Attack In Canada; Saudi Authorities Order Account Shut Down

On August 6, 2018, the Saudi-based Twitter account Infographic_ksa tweeted an image of an Air Canada aircraft that appeared to be heading towards the CN Tower in Toronto – in an apparent hint at the September 11, 2001 attacks – accompanied by the text in English: "Sticking one's nose where it doesn't belong! As the Arabic saying goes: 'He who interferes with what doesn't concern him finds what doesn't please him.'" The tweet was harshly criticized and the account tweeted an apology; nevertheless, the Saudi authorities ordered the account to shut down.

The tweet came against the backdrop of the past week's unprecedented rise in tension between Saudi Arabia and Canada. This follows Canadian diplomats' criticism of the continued arrests of social and human rights activists in Saudi Arabia, among them Samar Badawi, 2012 recipient of the U.S. Secretary of State's International Women of Courage Award[1] and sister of social activist and blogger Ra'if Badawi, who was arrested in 2012 and has been detained ever since. It should be noted that Rai'f Badawi's wife Ensaf Haidar and their three children received Canadian citizenship in July 2018.[2]  The arrests were criticized by Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, as well as by Canadian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Dennis Horak, who called for the immediate release of all those detained.[3]

In response, the Saudi Foreign Ministry declared Ambassador Horak persona non grata and ordered him to leave the country within 24 hours. It also announced the "freezing of all new trade and investment transactions between the KSA and Canada" and that "the KSA reserves its right to take further action."[4] A Saudi Foreign Ministry announcement stated: "Saudi Arabia will never allow any country to interfere in its internal affairs, and will not comply with any country's dictates." It added that it "sees the Canadian position as an attack on it that requires a firm response that will deter others from harming its sovereignty."[5]

The following report examines the controversial tweet, the background to it, and the unfolding of events that followed it.

@Infographic­­_KSA's Veiled Terror Threat Against Canada

As stated, on August 6, 2018, @Infographic_ksa tweeted a veiled threat of a 9/11-style terror attack against Canada. Across an image of an Air Canada aircraft apparently headed towards Toronto's CN Tower, it stated in English: "Sticking one's nose where it doesn't belong! As the Arabic saying goes: He who interferes with what doesn't concern him finds what doesn't please him."[6]


The @Infographic_ksa tweet. (Source: Twitter.com/@infographic_ksa, August 6, 2018)

The tweet was harshly criticized, and the same day, the account tweeted an apology. It stated that the image it had tweeted was "inappropriate" and that it had deleted it. The plane, it added, was supposed to represent the Canadian ambassador's return to his country. It also stressed that it was sorry for any harm it had caused.[7] Despite the apology, the Saudi Media Ministry ordered "the owner of the account" to shut it down until "investigations are completed."[8] The account is no longer active. 

There are a number of hypotheses about who is behind @Infographic_ksa. Anti-Saudi elements pointed to a connection between it and Saud Al-Qahtani, a senior advisor at the Saudi Royal Court.


Saudi Media Ministry announcement of the order to close @Infographic_ksa (Source: Twitter.com/media_ksa, August 6, 2018)

Saudi Foreign Ministry On Canadian Diplomats' Criticism: "An Attack... That Requires A Firm Response"

As noted, in the past week, Saudi-Canada tension has reached an unprecedented level due to the ongoing Saudi crackdown against social and human rights activists. This follows Canadian diplomats' criticism of the continued arrests of social and human rights activists in Saudi Arabia, including that of Samar Badawi, sister of social activist and blogger Ra'if Badawi, who was arrested in 2012 and has been detained ever since.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and the Canadian Embassy in Saudi Arabia tweeted their condemnation of Ms. Badawi's arrest and the arrest of other activists. Likewise, Canadian Ambassador to Canada Dennis Horak called on the Saudi authorities to "immediately release" all human rights activists, sparking rage in the kingdom.[9] In response to the Canadian diplomats' criticism, the Saudi Foreign Ministry declared Ambassador Horak persona non grata and ordered him to leave the country within 24 hours, and announced the "freezing of all new trade and investment transactions between the KSA and Canada" and that "the KSA reserves its right to take further action."[10] Likewise, the Saudi national carrier Saudi Arabian Airlines announced that it was cancelling all flights to and from Canada.[11]

In an announcement, the Saudi Foreign Ministry said that the Canadian statements were not based on fact and that they constituted "gross interference in internal Saudi affairs" and "a violation of international practices and of the international pacts that regulate relations between countries." It added that "Saudi Arabia will never allow any country to interfere in its internal affairs, and will not comply with any country's dictates" and that it "sees the Canadian position as an attack on it that requires a firm response that will deter others from harming its sovereignty."[12]

Many Arab elements announced that they were standing with Saudi Arabia against Canada's interference in its internal affairs. Among them were the Arab League, the UAE, Bahrain, the Palestinian Authority, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud 'Abbas, and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) with the exception of Qatar, which said that it did not support the announcement.[13]


Front page of the Saudi Al-Jazirah daily, August 7, 2018: "Red Line." The same message appeared in many articles in the Saudi press on that same day.

 

[1] CNN.com, August 6, 2018.

[2] Thestar.com, July 1, 2018.

[3] Twitter.com/CanadaFP, August 3, 2018; Twitter.com/CanEmbSA, August 5, 2018.

[4] Twitter.com/KSAmofaEN, August 5, 2018.

[5] Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), August 6, 2018.

[6] This saying is based on a hadith by Al-Tirmidhi from Abu Hurayrah (Hadith 2318), according to which the Prophet Muhammad said that part of the behavior of a good Muslim is not to interfere in matters that don't concern him. Al-Albani determined that this is a reliable hadith. Islamqa.info, January 12, 2007.

[7] Twitter.com/@infographic_ksa, August 6, 2018.

[8] Twitter.com/media_ksa, August 6, 2018.

[9] Twitter.com/CanadaFP, August 3, 2018; Twitter.com/CanEmbSA, August 5, 2018.5.8.2018

[10] Twitter.com/KSAmofaEN, August 5, 2018.

[11] Twitter.com/SaudiNews50, August 6, 2018.

[12] Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), August 6, 2018.

[13] Alarabiya.net, Alaraby.co.uk, August 6, 2018; Twitter.com/media_ksa, August 7, 2018.