I Am A Blogger… I Am Raif Badawi

Raif Badawi: Saudi Arabian citizen and married father of three, as well as passionate blogger, writer and online activist.

When Raif Badawi’s personal life and livelihood are summed up like that, they sound like those of virtually any writer who has ever expressed their personal views online or created a platform through which they can engage and connect with others.

Like Raif once did, I now use WordPress to blog about the things that matter to me and on my blog, I have expressed my displeasure for and fear of my country’s pending ‘Secrecy Bill’ – but unlike Raif, I haven’t yet been accused of something like apostasy (or the abandonment of one’s faith – a conviction that can result in the death sentence), arrested, fined $267,000 (1 million riyals), sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment and a 1,000 lashes over a period of 20 weeks by my government.

Yes, it has a lot to do with the fact that in my country, at least for now, we still have a shred of freedom of expression left to us but really, we’re not so different from Raif because we, too, want the freedom to ‘write for rights’, as Amnesty International so aptly dubbed it.

Raif’s story runs as follows:

His persecution and pain started as early as 2008 but it was in 2012 that he was arrested and later, cited for apostasy.

However, May 2014 is where Raif’s terrifying tale really begins. It was then that the government of this fiercely theocratic and conservative kingdom passed this outrageous and unjust sentence, saying Raif Badawi had apparently “insulted” Islam through his writings – and his website, ‘Free Saudi Liberals’ – which was, as reported on by The Guardian (11th January 2015), “…established to encourage a debate on religious and political matters in Saudi Arabia,” – was shut down.

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack, the Saudi government joined other Arabic countries in condemning the murder of the twelve of the satirical newspaper’s employees and yet, despite Badawi’s sentencing being as much, if not more, an attack on the right to freedom of expression, they had the nerve to flog the man fifty times in a public square in front of a large crowd, who sickeningly cheered and whistled after Mr Badawi had silently but painfully endured the first ‘batch’ of his 1,000 lashes (the rest were originally scheduled to follow every Friday subsequent to that) in a YouTube video, which has since been removed, that same week on the 9th of January 2015.

Two days later, during the incredible ‘Unity March’ in Paris, a woman was photographed holding a sign that, instead of the “Je Suis Charlie” (I Am Charlie) tagline, read: “I am Raif Badawi, the Saudi journalist who was flogged”, as around the globe, others began to protest (online via social media sites and physically outside Saudi Arabia’s foreign embassies) in mutual outrage and horror, condemning this cruel, unjust and utterly inhumane treatment.

As a result of Mr Badawi’s deteriorating health after those first lashes and more importantly, thanks to the efforts of countless people, the Saudi government has, for the moment, halted the punishment. (Ironically, their attempts to silence one man’s brave questioning of their overbearing authority has only added the outraged cries of millions to that voice.)

Now, a month later, I have seen the effect that even the simple act of re-tweeting a photo bearing Mr Badawi’s image and/or name, using the hashtags #IAmRaif and #FreeRaif and tweeting to his official Twitter account (@raif_badawi) and that of his wife, Ensar (@miss9afi) – who now  resides in Canada with their children – can have on this poor man’s life and his possible freedom.

Until the Saudi government indefinitely halts this torture and releases Raif, we must continue to fight for him, as much as for ourselves… because I, like so many of you out there, am a blogger – and also, I am Raif…

Sources cited:

WIKIPEDIA, THE FREE ENCYCLOPEDIA – Raif Badawi. (2015) [Online] Available from: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raif_Badawi

[Accessed: 7th February 2015]

THE GUARDIAN (2015) – Global outrage at Saudi Arabia as jailed blogger receives public flogging.

[Online] Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/11/flogging-global-outrage-saudi-arabia-silent

[Accessed: 7th February 2015]

AMNESTY.ORG – WIRE/LIVEWIRE (2015) Five ways you can help Raif Badawi | Amnesty’s global human rights blog. [Online] Available from: http://livewire.amnesty.org/2015/01/15/five-ways-you-can-help-raif-badawi/

[Accessed: 7th February 2015]

image

Above: One of the many photos of Raif Badawi currently circulating online.

T.A.Ryan

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