Flogged for Blogging

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Photo source : RFI

By Flavio Baroffio

When writing my articles for the “UNO, You Know?!” Blog I don’t have to fear to be thrown into jail or being tortured for expressing my opinions. Unfortunately that could happen to me if I lived in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi blogger Raif Badawi is now in jail for already three years because he was doing exactly the same thing I did : expressing his opinion in a blog. His wife Ensaf Haidar, now living in exile in Canada with their three children, was a guest at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy. She was interviewed by the journalist Tom Gross. In the following article I would like to share with you the story of Raif Badawi based on the interview given by his wife.

In 2006 Raif Badawi, now 32, launched the website “The Saudi Liberals” in Saudi Arabia to open public discussion about liberalism and ideas of enlightenment. In 2012 he was sent to prison for 10 years and further condemned to a 1000 lashes. The first fifty were carried out in January 2015 and almost killed Badawi. The rest of the lashes should have been carried out each Friday after prayers for 20 weeks. However following an international outcry the Saudi government has stopped the flogging and until now Badawi hasn’t been lashed further.

Ensaf Haidar was asked about Raif’s mental condition and communication with him. Ensaf is not always able to communicate with him and cannot always reach him. She further said he called her very limited. A side from his bad physical condition, Badawi also suffers from psychological pain because he is held away from his children. He will see his oldest child only when she will be 32 years old, because after his ten years imprisonment sentence there is a 10 years travel ban on him. His family is doing the best to lead a normal life but Ensaf said that it is practically impossible. Unfortunately the legal situation doesn’t look good for Badawi either. A lawyer in Saudi Arabia cannot do much and Raif’s current lawyer is in jail as well.

Indeed in Saudi Arabia it is impossible to achieve something which would increase the position of Badawi. So what could the international community do? An option might be to grant Raif an other citizenship, and a possible country would be Canada. Raif Badawi’s family is already living there. Citizenship in another country than Saudi Arabia might be helpful as Badawi could be deported after his sentence and doesn’t have to stay in Saudi Arabia because of the travel ban issued against him. When asked what weapons the West has against the Saudi regime, Haidar responded diplomatically that is was not her right to interfere but believed that questions should be raised.

In 2015 Raif was awarded the Sakharov prize of the European Parliament. The prize is awarded to individuals who fight for human rights across the globe and draw attention to human rights violations.[1] This prize gave hope to the family of Raif Badawi and Ensaf Haidar. Awarding prizes such as the Sakharov prize might even lead to change the position of the regime.

Now the question is what can we do ourselves? The answer Ensaf Haider gave us is quite simple, whatever we could and is possible to achieve. On the internet there is the Raif Badawi Foundation website, there you’ll find all information about Raif. In the end Gross asked if there were a message from Badawi. Ensaf said he would like to thank the people, the western governments and that he still believed in his case and continued to demand his release.

I’m really glad and thankful that when I wrote this article I didn’t need to fear oppression. I’m sure my fellow “UNO, You Know?!” bloggers feel the same, and not only us but also journalists all across the globe who can express them freely. Raif Badawi’s voice is heard and inspires us to promote freedom of speech and press around the world.

[1]http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sakharovprize/en/home/the-prize.html, 27.02.16

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