People pray at an open air makeshift mosque in front of a giant Saudi Flag in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, June 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Amr Nabil

Saudi man helps medical students in Canada seek asylum amid diplomatic tensions

A Nova Scotia health official says the pending departure of 59 Saudi Arabian medical residents will result in surgical delays over the coming months.

A Saudi Arabian man who successfully claimed asylum in Canada is now helping students across the country do the same amid tensions between the two countries that erupted last month.

Omar Abdulaziz says he is assisting 20 Saudi medical students from Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia seek asylum so they can continue their studies and live in Canada.

Last month Saudi Arabia suspended diplomatic relations with Canada in response to a government tweet that criticized the Saudis for the arrest of female social activists.

Saudi students were initially told that they had to leave Canada by Aug. 31 because of the ongoing diplomatic spat.

But HealthCareCan, which represents Canadian hospitals, said hundreds of Saudi Arabian resident physicians will be able to stay in the country to continue their training for now.

Abdulaziz says the students he is working with are not among those allowed to stay in Canada longer.

“Some of them are really scared,” said Abdulaziz. “This is a shock for them.”

Abdulaziz, who was officially granted asylum in 2014, said since diplomatic tensions rose, he’s been helping students from other universities with the asylum claim process.

He said the students don’t want to return to the kingdom because they are worried that they’ll be questioned by Saudi authorities on why they didn’t come back by the Aug 31. deadline.

Abdulaziz said some of the students also fear going back to the kingdom because they are uncertain if they’ll ever be allowed to return to Canada. He said other students are worried that they could be detained because of their associations with people who have recently been jailed in Saudi Arabia.

“I’ve been through the same situation before,” said the 27-year old. “I understand how it feels to fear going back to your country, to feel lost.”

Related: Saudi Arabia expelling Canadian ambassador, freezing new trade with country

Related: PM says cabinet retreat focused on issues close to home for Canadians

Abdulaziz said he claimed asylum in Canada in 2013 because of his political activism and criticisms of the Saudi government that he would regularly post on social media. He said he began posting about human rights issues publicly when he started his studies in Quebec in 2009 at McGill University.

He said his family started receiving threats because of his activism. He said he then claimed asylum because he feared that if he returned to Saudi Arabia he would be jailed.

“I felt that if I returned I was going to be harmed, or that I would at least lose my freedom,” he said.

Abdulaziz said he’s now helping students get in touch with lawyers and fill out paperwork so they can stay in Canada. Abdulaziz said some of the students are his friends and others reached out to him when they heard about his asylum claim being granted.

“I don’t want them to experience the same (feelings) as me and I hope that they pass this,” said Abdulaziz, who is how studying political science and sociology at Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke, Que.

Abdulaziz said the 20 students have been studying in Canada for three to four years.

Alanna Rizza, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Your Mountain Minute for September 20

Golden’s weekly 60-second news recap… Continue reading

WildSafeBC goes wild

Submitted The WildSafeBC goes wild weekend occurs province-wide every year on the… Continue reading

Services report: RCMP receive 86 calls

Golden Star Staff Golden-Field RCMP This week, the Golden-Field RCMP had 86… Continue reading

More burning prohibitions rescinded in southeast B.C.

Category 2 and 3 fires will be permitted in Southeast Fire Centre as of 1p.m. on Wednesday.

Excellence in local government starts at core facilities

A group of people gathered on September 13 to learn and talk… Continue reading

VIDEO: Neighbours fear impact of B.C. tent city residents

Greater Victoria residents opposed to campers voice concerns at provincial campground

B.C. premier apologizes for removal of 1950s totem pole at Canada-U.S. border

First Nations say pole was raised at Peace Arch but removed to make way for tourism centre

Tornado touches down in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que.

Environment Canada says cars and homes have been damaged by severe thunderstorms and high wind gusts

An unexpected sight: Bear spotted eating another bear in central B.C.

Cheslatta Carrier Nation Chief finds bear eating another bear’s carcass

RCMP confirm death of missing BC teen Jessica Patrick

No details on cause were given. Case is under criminal investigation and police are asking for tips.

CUTENESS OVERLOAD: 2 sea otters hold hands at the Vancouver Aquarium

Holding hands is a common – and adorable – way for otters to stay safe in the water

B.C. teen with autism a talented guitarist

Farley Mifsud is gaining fans with every performance

Yukon man facing new attempted murder charge in B.C. exploding mail case

Leon Nepper, 73, is now facing one charge each of aggravated assault and attempted murder

B.C. man who left hospice to run in upcoming election dies

A week after leaving hospice to go to city hall to declare his candidacy, David Hesketh has died.

Most Read