Raif Badawi’s Ordeal

Raif Badawi remains in prison. Raif Badawi still awaits 950 lashes with a whip. Raif Badawi remains in danger …

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June 17, 2017, marks five years in prison for Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian writer who is in jail for writing.

There is no new news to report regarding Raif’s condition. The absence of news is a heavy, ever-present reminder that Raif Badawi is always in imminent danger of his punishment being resumed. Saudi Arabia has never publicly stated any intention to free him, reduce his ten-year sentence, or show him any leniency. He is always in imminent danger.

For Raif—and for his lawyer and brother-in-law Waleed Abulkhair, who is also in prison in Saudi Arabia in a gross violation of his human rights—and for their two brilliant and courageous wives, Ensaf Haidar and Samar Badawi, today is just another January 13, just another Friday. Just another Friday spent weighing the choice between daring to dream of freedom or not expending the energy in the risky business of dreaming.

More days than not, Ensaf and Samar—and quite possibly Raif and Waleed—find the energy to dream of freedom.

It is an ordeal for all concerned. Badawi’s wife, Ensaf, must feel deep down every waking second and quite a few of her sleeping moments that the love of her life remains in terrible danger every minute that they are apart, each additional moment he spends in prison. The last time Raif Badawi was seen in public was two years ago, when he was flogged in public for writing.

Ensaf describes the terrible experience of watching the video of her husband being whipped in her book, Raif Badawi, The Voice of Freedom:

It’s indescribable, watching something like that being done to the person you love. I felt the pain they were inflicting on Raif as if it was my own. The men I had seen in the video might as well have put me in a square and flogged me. But worst of all was the feeling of helplessness. I sat on my sofa, wrapped my arms around my legs, and wept.
 
I don’t know how long I sat there for. The phone rang several times, but I didn’t answer. How was Raif now, I wondered. How severe were the wounds he had suffered from this brutal abuse? Had they broken his bones? The violence of the blows almost mde me suspect as much. Did he get medical treatment for his wounds? If only I could have done something for him!

This is what Ensaf Haidar lives with every second. Every prisoner’s loved ones around the world live with something like this, especially those with a sentence that includes corporal punishment and the corporal punishment is for … writing.

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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 essays; his wife, Ensaf Haidar; and Saudi Arabia. He was arrested on June 17, 2012; 1671 days ago.

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 thus far 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?

* * * *
This list corrects errors I created in earlier presentations of this list:

 December 30, 2016: The Importance of Raif Badawi
 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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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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