Mocking a statement published by Saudi embassy in Ottawa as a ‘lame attempt”, Ottawa-based Globe and Mail newspaper said, “Riyadh is on the defensive after video footage came to light last month showing Saudi forces using Canadian-made light-armoured vehicles against Saudi citizens in the eastern region of al-Qatif. The revelation has jeopardized a $15-billion deal to buy new LAVs from a Canadian company, since it undermines the Saudis’ assurances that they won’t turn the fresh weaponry on their own people”.
A still from a video obtained by Radio Canada International shows a column of light armored vehicles like those produced by General Dynamics Land Systems Canada being deployed by Saudi forces in a crackdown against Shiite Minority
After news were emerged that Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has launched an investigation on Al Saud regime’s use of Canadian-made LAVs against civilians, Saudi embassy in Canada issued as statement on Wednesday in a bid to justify the brutal clampdown as a defensive action similar to the gunning down of the self-radicalized loner who shot and killed a Canadian soldier in Ottawa on Oct. 22, 2014, and then attempted to force his way into Parliament.
“Canadian authorities did fight the attacker and killed him on the spot to protect Canadian civilians,” reads a statement from the Saudi embassy in Ottawa. “Fighting terrorism and protecting innocent civilians are not human-rights violations.”
Angered by the comparison Ottawa-based Globe and Mail newspaper said in its Thursday Editorial, Saudi Arabia puts its foot in its mouth over use of LAVs, said “This has been quite the week for false equivalencies”.
“First there was U.S. President Donald Trump’s attempt to pin equal blame for the violence in Charlottesville, Va., on white supremacists and those who stood up to them.
And now we have Saudi Arabia’s lame effort to equate the police shooting of a deranged gunman on Parliament Hill with its violent ongoing oppression of a religious minority.
We agree. We just don’t see how that relates to al-Qatif, where the Saudi government has used brute force to remove thousands of people from an ancient Shia village called Awamiya, with the intention of razing it.”
Awamiyah under siege and fire
Awamiyah – a 400-year-old town in the eastern Qatif province home to around 30,000 people – has been surrounded by Saudi security services since 10 May.
Since then, the situation has rapidly deteriorated. Locals report at least 25 people have been killed in shelling and sniper fire, and pictures of streets covered in rubble and sewage look more like a scene from Syria than an oil-rich Persian Gulf city.
Awamiyah is located in the Qatif region of Saudi Arabia’s Shiite-populated Eastern Province. The small town has, since 2011, been the center of anti-regime rallies, with the protesters calling for end to the kingdom’s discriminatory policies against the Shiites.
The ancient town was also the home of prominent Shiite cleric Sheik Nimr al-Nimr, who was executed in 2016 for his calls free elections in the retrogressive kingdom. The stunning execution drew condemnation and protests throughout the West Asia.
Human-rights observers say regime forces have randomly fired artillery into the town, killing civilians. The United Nations has demanded that the Saudi government end its use of excessive force in Awamiya, and to stop the demolition.
After weeks of media blackout, Saudi regime has recently allowed foreign journalists witness the destruction wrought on the town. Since July 26, they said, Saudi authorities have prevented emergency services from reaching the wounded and failed to provide humanitarian assistance to trapped Awamiyah citizens.
Citing estimates by locals, Reuters reported that at least 20,000 people had either fled or been forcefully evacuated to neighboring towns since Riyadh’s crackdown began.
Adam Coogle, a Middle East (West Asia) researcher for Human Rights Watch told The Independent “I’ve documented conflict in Saudi Arabia before but nothing like this. I’ve seen protests, but nothing this militarized”.
“The details are thin on the ground but what is clear is there are heavy clashes going on between the state and its citizens in a Saudi city right now, and that’s pretty unprecedented.”
Many residents in Awamiyah are too afraid of shelling and snipers to leave their homes, despite the fact in many areas the water mains and electricity have been disconnected, leaving them without fresh water or air conditioning in the punishing summer heat.
Ambulances and sanitation vehicles have had difficulty accessing the town after being held up at checkpoints, contributing to the unlivable conditions, several reports say.