Canada is now in a high-heat contest with Saudi Arabia that was precipitated by two tweets on the plight of the Badawis, brother and sister, and a number of female activists, imprisoned in the latter country.
The most important question is not about the medium of the messages, or even the wording — either that of Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland or the one from Global Affairs Canada. Rather, did that twin Twitter volley advance or retard the frightful situation of the people who were its subjects, the Badawis and the female activists?
Did the tweets, which incensed the Saudi government, increase the likelihood of release for all or any, or did they increase and intensify the determination to keep them imprisoned?
Did those who composed the tweets, urging “immediate release,” think that phrasing was a formula that had the slightest power to effect an actual improvement in the prisoners’ plight? Or were they swayed by how “good” it sounded to go on Twitter in such an imperative manner? What’s the cost of this storm for the individuals at its centre? For it is not about trade, or recalled ambassadors: it is about people in a jail.
I expect it will be a while, alas, before we hear about all of this from those imprisoned. Is it not most likely, now that our government has stirred these waters publicly, on the dubious and flippant medium it chose — Twitter — that both the Badawis and the female activists will suffer a longer, harder stay in the dim cloisters of Saudi prison than they would have without that intervention?