BREAKING NEWS: Raif Badawi was named on Tuesday as the International Writer of Courage and PEN Pinter Prize co-recipient for 2015 by English PEN, the human rights and freedom of expression organization. The poet James Fenton was named the winner in June, but the tradition has been that the winner select a co-winner. Fenton selected Raif Badawi.
The awards were given out today, about an hour ago. Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, accepted the award on behalf of Raif and his family. Ensaf Haidar, Raif’s wife, recorded a video message which was shown; she is in Europe continuing her never-ending campaign for his release and was in Vienna today to receive an award from the Austrian Freethinker Association.
In a statement Fenton wrote,
What moved me was the contrast between the simplicity of Badawi’s liberal aims—their modesty, almost—and the ferocity of the punishments they have brought down on him. Imprisonment, astonishing fines, corporal punishment designed to break either the spirit or the body first and to act as a chill warning to others. It is a world of inconceivable cruelty, but intimately linked to ours by business, strategic interests, military and diplomatic ties. For our part, then, protest has a purpose and—who knows?—perhaps even a chance of some sort of success.
Jimmy Wales said,
Raif Badawi used words to fight for a change. His non-violent campaign for a better future to his country encountered an exceptionally violent response by the Saudi government. Raif should have been honoured for founding a website that allowed healthy public discourse in Saudi Arabia; he should not have been held behind bars, facing flogging. This injustice must be corrected. I am honoured to accept the PEN award on behalf of Raif and deeply regret that he is unable to personally accept it himself.
PEN provided a translation of Ensaf Haidar’s acceptance:
I speak to you today from Quebec, my heart and mind dominated by one concern—to defend my husband, Raif Badawi, who is in his third year in prison solely for exercising his right to express himself. Raif is just a peace-loving intellectual who was not content to be part of the flock or to follow men of religion who are out of touch with the real world and who rule through laws that are unjust and despotic. He was brave enough to speak out and say no to their brutality and oppression, and their only response was to punish his frail body with the whips of their ignorance. The fifty lashes he received have been enough to ignite massive protests that have still not subsided. From Korea to Australia and the farthest reaches of Canada, people of all kinds have cried, ‘I am Raif.’ I am honoured to accept the PEN Pinter Prize from English PEN, and I would like to thank the British poet James Fenton for choosing Raif as his co-winner, as 2015 International Writer of Courage.
Friday, October 9, will be the nine-month anniversary of Raif Badawi’s first and so far only flogging session. English PEN announced today that it will holding one of its “regular vigils” outside the Saudi Embassy in London on behalf of Raif and his lawyer/brother-in-law Waleed Abulkhair, who is also in prison for fighting for human rights. The vigil will start at 9:00 a.m. London time and supporters are asked to meet at the Curzon Street entrance to the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Mayfair, London (note: the postal address of the Embassy is 30-32 Charles Street).
Fridays are also the day that the Saudi legal system delivers corporal and capital punishments. This Friday is also scheduled to be the day that the name of the Nobel Peace Prize recipient will be announced.
The Pinter Award was established in 2009 in honor of the late playwright and human rights activist Harold Pinter.
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In these nine months, I have written and published the following articles concerning Raif Badawi and his cruel treatment at the hands of an anti-human rights theocracy:
• September 14: Award Raif Badawi the Nobel Peace Prize
• August 18: Tortured
• June 17: Three Years in Prison for Blogging
• June 10: An Urgent Need for Action
• June 7: A Sense of Injustice
• June 1: Speak out for Those Who Can’t
• May 7: Ignite the Light
• April 3: We Want Life
• March 13: Raif Badawi and Official Cruelty
• March 6: Raif Badawi Remains a Prisoner
• February 20: 1000 Days
• February 6: #FreeRaif, Week 5
• January 31: Raif Badawi, Week 3
• January 22: An Update about Raif Badawi
• January 12: For Raif Badawi
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In September, I recorded myself reading one essay from Raif Badawi’s book, “1000 Lashes Because I Say What I Think.” The mic on this laptop is not strong, and my voice … well, there I am holding a copy of the book. Get yourself a copy.
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