Tomorrow Raif Badawi, 31, a Saudi Arabian blogger, will receive another round of lashes. He was sentenced in 2014 to ten years in prison and 1000 lashes. The lashes will last for 19 weeks in total.
Badawi was arrested and accused of apostasy, disaffiliation from a religion, in 2012. He was accused of insulting Islam, through his website, Liberal Saudi Network, which he started in order to encourage political and religious debate in his country. Badawi is already serving his sentence, which entails ten years in prison and 1000 lashes.
Last Friday, just two days after Charlie Hebdo’s massacre, where world leaders, including the French ambassador of Saudi Arabia, came together to condemn Charlie Hebdo’s attack and to march for freedom of speech, Badawi received the first 50 lashes in front of a mosque in Jeddah.
Tomorrow he will receive more. The only way for him to avoid tomorrow’s lashes, is through bad health conditions caused by the previous flogging. Whether or not this is the case, a doctor’s examination will decide, however as it hasn’t been confirmed yet, the flogging will continue as planned.
“There was a very large gathering [of people]. They brought out Raif from the prison car and put him in front of people gathered in a circle around him. Then the officer lashed him 50 times. After the lashing the gathered people shouted in one voice saying “God is great,” and they took Raif and returned him to prison,” a witness of the first flogging told Human Rights Watch.
Badawi is married and the father of three children. His wife Ensaf Haidar and the children have been living in Canada since 2013, where they found asylum after they faced persecution in the Arab world. Haidar, talked about the forthcoming lashes and she explained that he will not stand the second round due to poor health.
“What I felt was indescribable,” Haidar said about her husband’s first round of punishment, “It was an indescribable mixture of sadness and pain.”
Badawi’s case has raised public outrage all around the world. Several governments, USA, Canada, Germany, and Norway condemned the flogging. Human rights activists and organizations are also trying to raise awareness.
The director of Amnesty International UK, Kate Allen, is asking on Amnesty’s press release today UK’s government to intensify its reactions to the case.
“David Cameron and his ministers should have the courage of their convictions and say – loud and clear – that Raif Badawi’s case is an absolute disgrace, that this weekly flogging should be halted and he should be freed from jail. At the very least the Foreign Office should be calling in the Saudi ambassador and telling him this in person if they haven’t already done so,” said Allen.
“Corporal punishment is nothing new in Saudi Arabia, but publicly lashing a peaceful activist merely for expressing his ideas sends an ugly message of intolerance. Saudi Arabia is showing a willingness to inflict vicious and cruel punishments on writers whose views it rejects,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division.
Reporters Without Borders (RWB), a French based non- governmental organization fighting for the freedom of press, urges King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia to pardon Badawi and calls for people to sign a relevant petition on its website. According to RWB, 30967 people have already signed it.
“I told our children about the news last week so that they would not find out about it from friends at school. It is a huge shock for them. International pressure is crucial; I believe if we keep up the support it will eventually pay off,” said Haidar, Badawi’s wife.
By Valia Papadopoulou