“The Saudi Arabian embassy in London was asked to comment on the SSS award, but did not respond.”
This is an update to my earlier post concerning the Saudi blogger and Human Rights activist, Raif Badawi, who stands convicted of “setting up a website that undermines general security”, “ridiculing Islamic religious figures”, and “going beyond the realm of obedience”. His sentence is to 1,000 lashes, 10 years in prison, a fine of 1 million riyal (currently £180,000), and a ten year ban on public activity after release. The lashings, according to unconfirmed reports, will be administered at a rate of 50 per week, starting on Friday January 9, in front of Aljefali Mosque in Jeddah, after prayers.
Saudi Arabia is currently a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, and has set up the International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue in Vienna. Comment is superfluous.
Raif Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, has accepted the Scottish Secular Society’s first annual Aikenhead award on his behalf. Haidar, herself an activist and human rights defender, fled first to Lebanon before seeking asylum in Canada which she now lives with their three children, two girls and a son.
Ensaf Haidar writes: –
“Ladies and Gentlemen, my husband Raif Badawi was imprisoned just because he expressed liberal opinions. This is a crime in Saudi Arabia, punishable with ten years imprisonment and 1000 barbaric lashes of a whip.
What my husband Raif was subjected to is an inquisition, done in the name of the Saudi interpretation of religion.
Shamefully one should add, Saudi Arabia is spending hundreds of millions on the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, (KAICIID) in Austria – a public relations project to polish its image, which fails to hide the Kingdom’s persistent violations of human rights.
While promoting its so called ‘dialogue, openness and tolerance’ with the outside world, the Kingdom has been systematically silencing any expression or opinions or peaceful activism and sending those who dare to speak out behind bars.
My husband is one of them.
This glaring discrepancy has led the Austrian Green Party to demand its closure in Vienna, asking that the Kingdom begins by promoting these values first in its own land.
My husband has been awarded several prizes, including the Humanitarian Award of the Canadian Organization PEN and the Netizen Prize from Reporters Without Borders, and now you, the Scottish Secular Society, have awarded Raif the AIKENHEAD AWARD, 2015. I am both honoured and grateful for this distinction.
These awards send a clear message round the globe about the Saudi regime.
The continuation of Raif’s imprisonment is shameful, especially as the Kingdom claims to be part of the international coalition against the Islamic State (IS). Saudi Arabia is no different from the Islamic State when both lash and kill in the name of religion.
In the name of my husband Raif Badawi, I would like to express my sincere appreciation and gratitude to the Scottish Secular Society and to your Vice Chair, dear Ramin Forghani, for his continuous support.
It is this great international solidarity that reaffirms our belief in humanity.”
Scottish Secular Society press release on Raif Badawi:- http://www.scottishsecularsociety.com/scottish-secular-society-presenting-raif-badawi-with-annual-aikenhead-award/
This Arabic language article states that the lashing will take place in front of Aljefali mosque on Friday, 9th January in Jeddah but doesn’t mention a source for this information:- http://sabq.org/eKugde
More on Saudi Arabia silencing people on line:- http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/7-ways-saudi-arabia-silencing-people-online-2014-12-06
Scottish Government letter to Scottish Secular Society ice Chair Ramin Forghani pressing UK government to act:- https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=296114740599128&set=a.296115337265735.1073741831.100006018131928&type=1