Picture this: being passionate about justice and equality, you start a blog. Disillusioned with the socio-political reality of your own country you take to the internet and express your concerns about the religious authorities/senior religious figures. You write your thoughts and then bam!
You’re taken in for questioning…
You’re forbidden to leave the country and your wife’s bank accounts are frozen.
You’re accused of insulting your religion, accused of apostasy (and so your wife’s family later want a divorce).
As a Muslim, you’re accused of “insulting Islam through electronic channels” and thrown in prison. Your original sentence is then increased and you’re eventually condemned to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes…
Sound surreal? Sound like an eerie film plot? No, this is the story of Saudi Arabian writer and activist Raif Badawi. Raif is currently in prison for writing a blog, criticising senior religious figures. He’s accused of insulting Islam and leaving his faith – a “crime” which comes with a death sentence in Saudi Arabia.
Raif has received 50 lashes and 17th June 2017 marked the fifth anniversary of his imprisonment. Raif’s wife Ensaf and three children are now living in Canada, having been granted political asylum, yet they want Raif back – free and safe. However, for being a Saudi citizen and speaking his mind in a theocratic country based on an extreme, toxic and Medieval form of Islam with no consent of private faith and free will in religious matters, Raif is now paying a heavy price. His sons and daughters long to see their dad again and his wife is carrying on his fight for freedom.
Take a look at the poem their 12 year-old son Doudi recently wrote:
A dream wakes me up every night
I wake up crying, feeling longing and desperate
I dream of you,
I dream that you’re hugging me, kissing me and your tears filling me with love. Telling me that you love me, and I cry for joy. I can’t believe I’m with you, touching you, holding your face, kissing you, daddy daddy, you are with me and we are close again
How many years has it been?
I was only seven years old when we left you and left our country, Saudi Arabia
I didn’t know why we left you back then
I remember you hugging me, telling me goodbye, and asking me to be strong for my mom
I didn’t understand
I didn’t understand that you went for prison and didn’t understand the reason for that
But I know what is it like to miss you
To miss your love
At school when the teacher asked us to talk about our families, I didn’t know what to say to them
My father is Raif Badawi, a writer and he’s Saudi Arabian. He went to jail because he loves his country and its people. He voiced an opinion that many people in Saudi Arabia agree with. But today my father is paying the price
My father is in jail because he loves his country.
A dream wakes me up every night
I see you in my dreams. I wake up. And the dream turns into imagination. The feel of your embrace was just my imagination
And I cry, feeling sad, feeling a longing
I pray for God, please bring back my father
I pray with love
May He answer my prayers.
Doudi ‘Trad’ Raid Badawi, aged 12
(written with the help of his mother, Ensaf Haider)
Incredibly, incredibly sad. Raif is not the first prisoner of conscience in Saudi Arabia and he won’t be the last but we must keep on his and his family’s fight.
What can we do to help?
It’s really important to not let Raif’s case go silent. Raif needs to know that he’s not alone and the Saudi authorities also need to know that we’re not going to let his case go. Pressure needs to be continuously built, calling on the authorities to release Raif, in addition to public awareness to keep the issue in the spotlight and increase support.
Here’s a suggested list of actions courtesy of Amnesty International:
1. Social media campaigning
Related Twitter accounts:
- @Raif_Badawi (Raif’s account managed by his wife Ensaf)
- @Miss9afi (Ensaf’s account)
- @BorisJohnson (UK foreign minister’s)
- @UKinSaudiArabia (UK embassy in Saudi Arabia)
- @SaudiEmbassyUK (Saudi Arabian embassy in UK)
- @KingSalman blogging is not a crime! We urge you to #FreeRaif today!
- @Raif_Badawi has already spent 5 years in prison. Just for blogging. Tell @KingSalman that’s 5 years too many – he must #FreeRaif now!
- Blogging can be costly in Saudi Arabia & @Raif_Badawi has paid the highest price: 10 yrs behind bars, 1000 lashes. @KingSalman: #FreeRaif!
- @BorisJohnson: Help @raif_badawi see his family again – Call for his freedom today! #FreeRaif!
- @Raif_badawi deserves freedom and dignity. 5 years is already too many – @UKinSaudiArabia should call for his release #FreeRaif
2. Contact Saudi authorities directly
You can send cards and/or letters to the Saudi Arabian embassy in your country or even give them a call.
Here are the details for London:
His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdul Aziz
Ambassador to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
30 Charles Street
Telephone: 0207 917 3000 or 0207 917 3288
Tweet, write – do whatever you can to let Raif and his family know that they are not alone. Even more importantly, let the Saudi authorities that we’re here and we stand with Raif. Freedom of religion, freedom of belief and freedom of expression are universal human rights. It’s about time that Saudi Arabia joined the 21st century and started recognising these rights…
Peace, salam ♡
Credits, acknowledgements and further information:
To find out more about Raif visit:
Campaign materials: Amnesty International (UK, 2017)
Poem courtesy of Amnesty International (UK, 2017)
Image credits: Amnesty Finland (CC) (featured image)