Free Raif Badawi, Saudi Blogger Sentenced to Cruel Punishment


This has been burning inside me all week. I must share it and seek your support. Here is a link to an online petition, and I urge you to read my article, sign and share: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/saudi-arabia-set-resume-flogging-raif-badawi-friday-2015-01-14  

raif-badawi

I am a blogger. I am proud to be a blogger; I will be coming up to my one-thousandth blog post this year, and I will celebrate. I will also celebrate the fact that I live in a country where I am allowed to express my views freely – where I am allowed to operate this site and publish my articles without hindrance or harassment of any kind. But my blog is not really a “me” thing. As it is for most bloggers, I suspect, it is a platform to share views and ideas, to seek to inspire or provoke deeper thought on issues; and sometimes just to entertain.

A blog can be about anything you want it to be. But one thing I do know is that it is about freedom. I understand this every time I sit down at my keyboard. I am grateful for it.

Around the world, many of my colleague bloggers are not so lucky. If you follow the website Global Voices (and I highly recommend you do so), you will know that in some countries bloggers are targeted, persecuted, shut down, harassed, intimidated, imprisoned, sometimes even assassinated.

Raif Badawi. This is one of the photos sent by his wife for Amnesty International to use in its work on his case.
Raif Badawi. This is one of the photos sent by his wife for Amnesty International to use in its work on his case.

One blogger we should all be particularly worried about right now is Raif Badawi. His Government – the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – has torn at my heart. According to Amnesty International: In May 2014, Raif Badawi, co-founder of the ‘Saudi Arabian Liberals’ website, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a fine of 1 million Saudi riyals (about US$266,631) by Jeddah’s Criminal Court. Raif Badawi was first jailed in 2012 for violating Saudi Arabia’s IT law and insulting religious authorities through his online writings and hosting those of others on the ‘Saudi Arabian Liberals’ website. He was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes.  In December 2013, an appeals court overturned his conviction and sent the case to Jeddah’s Criminal Court to be reviewed. He had initially been charged with ‘apostasy’, which is considered a serious crime in Saudi Arabia and carries the death penalty.”

On January 9, Saudi authorities lashed Mr. Badawi fifty times – in public – and will receive more on Friday. His wife is worried he may not survive the 1,000 lashes; this is just the start. The blogger has been sentenced to 950 more lashes over the next nineteen weeks. I cannot conceive of this in my mind. Jamaican human rights activist Susan Goffe tweeted today that the punishment violates UN Conventions against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Meanwhile, the obvious stifling of dissent, discourse and the peaceful expression of views is ongoing in Mr. Badawi’s country, where social media platforms are regularly shut down.

Raif Badawi with his children. His wife says they are traumatized by his flogging.
Raif Badawi with his children. His wife says they are traumatized by the flogging.

What horrendous “crime” has Mr. Badawi committed to receive this inhumane, positively mediaeval punishment? He writes. He applauded the “Arab Spring” in Egypt (his Government did not). He embraces the concepts of liberalism and secularism, suggesting: “States which are based on religion confine their people in the circle of faith and fear.” He also wrote: “Secularism respects everyone and does not offend anyone … Secularism … is the practical solution to lift countries (including ours) out of the third world and into the first world.”  He has quoted Albert Camus, and even the Koran itself, to support his view that a theocratic state, “claiming exclusive monopoly of the truth,” is oppressive and anachronistic. Yes, religion should be a personal choice, not state policy. Really dangerous thoughts, eh?

Now, I am not claiming that bloggers are all saints, or that pearls of wisdom fall from their lips continuously. That’s not the point. But they offer perspectives. As we have realized from the Charlie Hebdo assassinations, all views contend (and some of them are very convoluted) and that is as it should be. One blog post I have been following has a heated discussion about Charlie that is now running to well over 100 comments, and still going. Some commenters are getting pretty upset… But hey, it’s freedom of speech and it is democracy. We don’t all have to agree.

I am personally pleading for Raif Badawi to be pardoned and released. I am begging the Saudi Government to stop torturing one of your own citizens for peacefully expressing his views.

Please sign the petition. I particularly beseech my fellow bloggers in Jamaica and around the world to do so.

#IAmRaifBadawi #FreeRaif

French citizens line up for a copy of "Charlie Hebdo,"
French citizens line up for a copy of “Charlie Hebdo” after the murderous attack on the satirical magazine’s offices. The first run sold out within hours and millions more copies are being published to satisfy the demand.

 

 


11 thoughts on “Free Raif Badawi, Saudi Blogger Sentenced to Cruel Punishment

  1. This has really angered me too. Apparently his case has now been referred to the Supreme Court but it’s still a long way from having him home with this wife and children. A prime example of the severe restrictions on freedom of thought and expression still being applied to Saudi Arabian society.

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    1. It’s also disturbing and worrying in the light of the death of King Abdullah. I understand his successor is more conservative (is that possible?) I was also shocked by the beheading of a woman recently in Saudi. When are they going to move into the 21st century? The praise being lavished upon the King after his death by global leaders is also quite nauseating, in my view! Thanks for your comment Aisha and I hope you are well!

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    1. Thank you so much Catherine! Yes, beyond wrong is right. I read an account of how he will suffer over the next 19 weeks (if he survives at all) and it filled me with horror. It is torture and it is inhuman…

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    1. Yes, he is indeed. He is suffering. This extended period of floggings is torture and breaches all the UN Conventions on Human Rights. It could eventually kill him. Thank you for your comments and I do hope that the U.S. State Department and others around the world will not just “call for” it to end, but will put diplomatic pressure on the Saudis. Please share my article and sign and share the petition. And thank you so much for caring…

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