An Update about Raif Badawi

A couple weeks ago I wrote about the plight of an activist and blogger named Raif Badawi, who was arrested and found guilty of insulting his country’s religion and sentenced to 20 straight weeks of public whipping, among other punishments. (“For Raif Badawi.”)

As I wrote nine days ago, the first set of fifty blows against him was delivered three Fridays ago, just before the weekly call to prayers in Jeddah, Saudia Arabia. Cellphone videos showed some of the whipping.

Word is out today that for the second week in a row, the authorities have decided to postpone Friday’s series of fifty lashes. His health may be at risk, according to an update on Amnesty International’s website (“Doctors find Raif Badawi unfit for flogging“), so this week’s flogging has been put off:

The planned flogging of Raif Badawi is likely to be suspended this Friday after a medical committee assessed that he should not undergo a second round of lashes on health grounds. The committee, comprised of around eight doctors, carried out a series of tests on Raif Badawi at the King Fahd Hospital in Jeddah yesterday and recommended that the flogging should not be carried out.

Amnesty International used the term “likely” for good reason: simply because a reported medical committee has made a reported recommendation does not mean that the recommendation will be heeded at his prison or by his guards, so tomorrow’s flogging may take place anyway. Badawi himself may not know about this one-week delay, and may be preparing himself for tomorrow’s expected punishment even now (as if one even can prepare oneself for a flogging).

An Amnesty official, Said Boumedouha, said, “Raif Badawi is still at risk, there is no way of knowing whether the Saudi Arabian authorities will disregard the medical advice and allow the flogging to go ahead.”

Boumedouha also pointed out that this weekly routine of “health assessments” and declarations of his fitness or non-fitness to be beaten in public provides Badawi and his loved ones with a whole other kind of torment: weekly suspense over whether or not there will be relief or punishment this week. It is a new, psychological, sort of punishment.

Are the two suspensions an indication that international outcry is having a positive effect on the case? Not likely. According to the Guardian newspaper, the medical authorities reported that Badawi’s wounds had not yet healed from the first flogging. They are following their legal scripts to the T. There have been ten beheadings in that country so far in 2015, so international humanitarian and legal protests may truly be falling on that judicial system’s deaf ears.

What did Badawi do? What is the nature of his crime? He is a blogger, like you or me. A re-cap: He has been living in a Kafka-esque dreamscape of religion-as-part-of-state-bureaucracy since 2008. In May of last year, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and 1000 lashes, to be meted out in sets of fifty lashes each Friday for twenty weeks. For over a year, his sentence was publicly changed multiple times between six years and 600 lashes and ten years/1000 lashes while his case bounced between a higher court and a lower court in his country’s legal system.

His country is Saudi Arabia, and as a citizen of the United States, I am aware that I have no say in the legal system or traditions of another country’s bureaucracy; I can only write this column to implore my government to at least say something to one of its allies in the name of a fellow writer and the freedom of ideas. I have written in the past about things I do not like about my country (its use of capital punishment, for instance), and I vote my conscience on these issues, In another country, I might have been arrested for expressing my views, but it has not happened here.

Amnesty International, Reporters without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights Watch, PEN International, and many other organizations have taken up Badawi’s cause, possibly in part because of its clear-cut blatancy: A man is being publicly flogged because he is a writer and has expressed ideas his government would rather he not.

In 2008, he set up a website, a blog named “Saudi Arabian Liberals,” and he was arrested, questioned, and released. He was then charged with insulting Islam, left the country, was told the charges were being dropped, returned home because he has a young family there, and then was blocked from leaving the country again, which is never an indication of good things to come. The web site continued, and he was arrested again in 2012 when a religious leader said that his website “infringes on religious values” and proved that he is an apostate, or one who renounces his religion. In his country, apostasy carries with it a sentence of death, and that legal question—is Raif Badawi an apostate or not?—is what has kept his case bouncing between courts in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. A lower court declared that it did not have the authority to decide, and it referred the case to a higher court which then decided that the lower court could indeed decide if Badawi is an apostate.

He was cleared of the apostasy charge, which freed the courts to sentence him for the charges that he was considered guilty of from pretty much the moment he was arrested in 2012: insulting the faith and “going beyond the realm of obedience.” Ten years in prison, 1000 lashes, and a one million riyal fine. And his lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair, was arrested and found guilty of setting up a human rights monitor organization, which landed the lawyer a 15-year jail sentence.

The humanitarian outcry may not be getting the attention of the authorities in Saudi Arabia, but it may be getting the attention of some who can get the attention of those authorities. The United States placed a call that probably sounded a little bit like a complaint. Nothing happened. So did the government of the United Kingdom and many other countries. The response was a flogging. And the authorities in Saudia Arabia can point to stories in which American writers and journalists in other countries that are decrying Badawi’s treatment have been jailed or face jail time for the crime of telling the truth, so they feel that they can tell us to stick it.

But the Guardian quotes Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who it says is a member of the Jordanian royal family. Perhaps those closer to inside that world are being affected by the humanitarian outcry. He spoke forcefully on the issue and said, “Flogging is, in my view, at the very least, a form of cruel and inhuman punishment. Such punishment is prohibited under international human rights law, in particular the convention against torture, which Saudi Arabia has ratified. I appeal to the king of Saudi Arabia to exercise his power to halt the public flogging by pardoning Mr. Badawi, and to urgently review this type of extraordinarily harsh penalty.”

____________________________________________
The WordPress Daily Prompt for January 22 asks, “What person whom you don’t know very well in real life—it could be a blogger whose writing you enjoy, a friend you just recently made, etc.—would you like to have over for a long chat in which they tell you their life story?”

* * * *
Please subscribe to The Gad About Town on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thegadabouttown

Advertisements

26 comments

  1. livingonchi · January 22, 2015

    Raif Badawi is an amazingly courageous human being.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. livbridge · January 22, 2015

    Reblogged this on Shakespeare's Sugar Spun Sister and commented:
    Wow, this is really shocking. The world can be a cruel and horrendous place.
    How can we create leverage on this?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. dreamwalkeramrita · January 24, 2015

    I cannot believe that such acts of brutality are being publicly meted out as ‘punishment’ in the 21st century. I am an atheist; I suppose I might have been sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Raif Badawi, Week 3 | The Gad About Town
  5. Pingback: Raif Badawi & the Optimism of Dissent | The Gad About Town
  6. Pingback: Award Raif Badawi the Nobel Peace Prize | The Gad About Town
  7. Pingback: Thoughts on Raif Badawi & the Nobel Peace Prize | The Gad About Town
  8. Pingback: A Prize for Raif Badawi | The Gad About Town
  9. Pingback: Raif Badawi and Torture | The Gad About Town
  10. Pingback: Winner of the Sakharov Prize: Raif Badawi | The Gad About Town
  11. Pingback: Raif Badawi: Is an End in Sight? | The Gad About Town
  12. Pingback: Raif Badawi: A Cloud of Uncertainty | The Gad About Town
  13. Pingback: One Year After He Was Flogged, Raif Badawi Remains a Prisoner | The Gad About Town
  14. Pingback: Raif Badawi’s Hunger Strike | The Gad About Town
  15. Cindy · January 31, 2016

    Saudi Arabia is a phony country of prehistoric troglodytes. I pity those with a brain who had the misfortune of being born in that shithole.

    Like

  16. Pingback: #ReadRaif: Now More than Ever | The Gad About Town
  17. Pingback: My Articles About Raif Badawi | The Gad About Town
  18. Pingback: Raif Badawi Matters | The Gad About Town
  19. Pingback: Raif Badawi and the Nobel Peace Prize | The Gad About Town
  20. Pingback: Raif Badawi’s Punishment Continues | The Gad About Town
  21. Pingback: A Wife’s Lonely Fight for Her Husband | The Gad About Town
  22. Pingback: The Importance of Raif Badawi | The Gad About Town
  23. Pingback: Raif Badawi’s Ordeal | The Gad About Town
  24. Pingback: The Verdict Against Badawi is Upheld–What Comes Next? | The Gad About Town
  25. Pingback: Will Justin Trudeau Speak Out for Raif Badawi? | The Gad About Town
  26. Pingback: My Posts about Raif Badawi & Saudi Arabia | The Gad About Town

Please comment here. Thank you, Mark.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.