“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
Saudi blogger facing 1,000 lashes; Amnesty appeal to King Abdullah [Petition closed. More info as available]
Petition now closed for timing reasons. I will share more information about the case as available.
Join Amnesty’s letter writing campaign (form letter provided; individual even better) to King Abdulaziz regarding Raif Badawi. Write, publicise, tweet. Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes after starting a website for social and political debate. Reports suggest that administration of the punishment will begin this Friday, 9 January (after prayers) and continue at a rate of 50 lashings per Friday, for a further 19 Fridays if he survives so long, which is doubtful. Some reports (we are checking on the accuracy of these) say he is diabetic, which would make wound treatment more difficult, and it is unclear what quality medical attention he will be receiving.
King Abdullah ibn Abdulaziz would wish to be known as a wise and just ruler. He is widely credited for the 2002 Arab-Israeli peace initiative, and has carried out various internal reforms, including the creation of what is now known as the King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue. The terms of this dialogue, however, are strictly limited. The use of social media in Saudi Arabia is closely monitored, with harassment and severe punishments for those who criticise the authorities, while last October Saudi Arabia’s top Muslim cleric last week described Twitter as “the source of all evil and devastation”. International protest at Badawi’s treatment will at worst show that such barbarism carries a cost, with implications for future decisions, and at best may strengthen the hands of those, even within the Saudi government itself, who might wish for reconsideration. Indeed, Amnesty campaigns on behalf of prisoners of conscience have in the past, on occasion, been surprisingly successful. A consortium of intellectuals with relevant connections has also been writing to influential Saudi princes (government in Saudi Arabia is verymuch a family affair) on Badawi’s behalf.
According to Wikipedia (see also here, here, here, and here for reports from the press, the BBC, Human Rights Watch and CNN respectively) Badawi was first detained on apostasy charges in 2008, but was released after a day of questioning (in Saudi Arabia, apostasy carries an automatic death sentence). The charges were revived, but not acted on, in 2012, the year in which he was arrested for allowing material criticising the authorities to appear on his website.In 2013, he was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes for founding an Internet forum that “violates Islamic values and propagates liberal thought”, and this was increased in May 2014 to 10 years imprisonment and 1,000 lashes. Badawi’s lawyer Waleed Abulkhair has himself been jailed after setting up Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, a human rights organization. Saudi Arabia is currently a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Badawi was barred from leaving Saudi Arabia in 2009; his wife and three
children now live in Canada, where they have obtained political asylum.He is the recipient of a number of awards, including the One Humanity Award from PEN Canada, the Nietzen Prize of Reporters Without Borders, and, very recently, the Thomas Aikenhead Award from the Scottish Secular Society (this last having been made after consultation with his wife, who advised that it would probably be more helpful than not). His official Facebook page* carries details of representations being made on his behalf, including one on 18 December 2014 expressing the concern of the Scottish government over his predicament, in response to a letter from my friend Ramin Forghani about the case. Other messages of support are noted on his Twitter page.*
Saudi Arabia is a major customer for the US and UK arms industries, and it was the Saudi army that, at the invitation of the Emir of Bahrain, entered Bahrain to suppress the popular uprising of 2011.
*Currently managed by his wife.