Over the last twenty-four months I have published a few dozen articles about the imprisoned Saudi Arabian writer and thinker Raif Badawi, who was caned for his thoughts; his wife, Ensaf Haidar; and Saudi Arabia. He was arrested on June 17, 2012; 1657 days ago. As 2016 concludes, one wonders: What will 2017 bring Raif Badawi?
Raif Badawi is a symbol; for much of the world, his is the face of the Arab Spring. In his essays, he compares the Arab Spring to the French Revolution, and his comparison is not extreme. His ongoing imprisonment—and the sight of him being whipped on January 9, 2015—is the image of what certain governments want to do to the Arab Spring.
This post lists all the articles that I have written and published about Raif Badawi. This website is the only one on the planet to have had insider’s reports from verified sources on conditions in Raif Badawi’s prison.
Raif wrote in his introduction to his book, 1000 Lashes Because I Say What I Think, of seeing a graffito in his prison’s filthy group lavatory: it surprised and delighted him. It said “Secularism is the solution!” He wrote, “The sentence stood alone among the dozens of obscenities that were written in so many Arabic dialects. This discovery could only mean one thing. There was at least one other person here who understood me, who understood the reasons I was jailed.”
“Secularism is the solution,” that handwritten scrawl found in a prison toilet, is the guiding thesis inside each of my articles. Secularism is the solution.
The ongoing diplomatic silence regarding Raif Badawi is perplexing in the face of the global outcry. In November 2015, more than a year ago, Yves Rossier, Switzerland’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs, told a Swiss newspaper, La Liberté, that Raif Badawi’s sentence has been suspended.
“A royal pardon is in the works thanks to the head of state, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud,” Rossier informed the world. No one has reported any update from M. Rossier about this claim. It was soon after M. Rossier shared this that Raif Badawi was moved to his current location, however. Whether the pardon is real or will be a reality is unknown. What is known is that Raif Badawi remains a prisoner and the threat of continued lashings remains as well.
Is Raif Badawi’s future freedom a game piece in a contest between Saudi Arabia and its global reputation? Is there a perfect moment for the country to release him that I am as deaf to as the others covering the Raif Badawi story?
There are several issues that possibly rank ahead of human rights—and one man’s awful corporal punishment, a whipping, merely for writing, and his all-important freedom—on the list of concerns that complicate the relationship between Saudi Arabia and other nations. The ongoing war in Yemen, in which Saudi Arabia is backing the government in a fight against rebels, is notorious, leading to atrocities, and is in danger of becoming Saudi Arabia’s version of America’s involvement in Vietnam. That is one. Saudi Arabia’s use of the “fight against terrorism and ISIS” as an excuse to round up those it declares to be dissidents is another.
What is one man’s freedom worth, after all?
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This list corrects errors I created in earlier presentations of this list:
• October 18, 2016: Raif Badawi’s Punishment Continues
• October 4, 2016: Raif Badawi and the Nobel Peace Prize
• June 16, 2016: A Wife’s Lonely Fight for Her Husband
• May 12, 2016: Secularism Is the Solution
• April 17, 2016: Inside Raif Badawi’s Prison Cell
• April 11, 2016: A New Prize for Raif Badawi
• March 25, 2016: #ReadRaif: Now More than Ever
• January 26, 2016: Raif Badawi’s Hunger Strike
• January 9, 2016: One Year After He Was Flogged, Raif Badawi Remains a Prisoner
• December 16: Badawi’s Absence Is a Presence at Prize Ceremony
• December 11: A Cloud of Uncertainty
• October 29: Winner of the Sakharov Prize
• 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 2015, I recorded myself reading one essay from Raif Badawi’s book, 1000 Lashes Because I Say What I Think. It is the entire chapter, “Is Liberalism Against Religion?” Get yourself a copy of the book. I have intentions to record myself reading more of his essays, if that appeals to readers.
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