Raif Badawi - Prisoner of Conscience
Imagine writing something.
Imagine that what you wrote was a form of criticism against a system you thought unfair and wrong. You criticized the leaders of this system.
Then the leaders get wind of what you have written, arrest you, charge you with apostasy, and sentence you to 10 years in prison, a fine, and 1000 lashes. The lashes are to be given in doses of 50, once a week for 20 weeks.
Think about that for a minute. One thousand lashes. Now think about Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger who had just this situation fall upon him and who, today, was due to have the second 50 lashes of his 1000 but it had to be postponed due to health reasons. The "health reasons" are that the first 50 from last Friday had not healed enough for him to withstand more. To refer to this punishment as "barbaric" is an understatement. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, a member of the Jordanian royal family said of the sentence:
“Flogging is, in my view, at the very least, a form of cruel and inhuman punishment...Such punishment is prohibited under international human rights law, in particular the convention against torture, which Saudi Arabia has ratified. I appeal to the king of Saudi Arabia to exercise his power to halt the public flogging by pardoning Mr Badawi, and to urgently review this type of extraordinarily harsh penalty.”Not only was Mr. Badawi sentenced to a ridiculously harsh series of punishments, but his lawyer (and brother-in-law) Waleed Abu Al-Khair, was found guilty on charges that included offending the judiciary and founding an unlicensed organisation and his original sentence of 10 years in prison was increased to 15 years.
Imagine living in a place, under such a weak system, that "offending the judiciary" was considered a crime worth 15 years of punishment. The rulers of Saudi Arabia should be ashamed of harkening back to an age of darkness for horrific "solutions" to non-problems.
Canada, where Badawi's wife and children live presently, is concerned about the floggings and has, "made representations to Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador in Ottawa, and Canada’s Ambassador in Riyadh has met with the Chair of the Human Rights Commission and has sought a meeting with the Government of Saudi Arabia". This translates to very little in actual help for Mr. Badawi. Having an "ongoing, respectful dialogue" with Saudi Arabia can include telling them that what they are engaging in is inhuman and cruel, that they should cease torturing prisoners with (to say it as mildly as possible) questionable criminal credentials, and that there could be policy implications in the future if this behavior continues.
But you will, of course, excuse me if I don't hold my breath while I wait.
Kate Allen, UK director of Amnesty International, spoke about Badawi's case and what should happen there:
“David Cameron and his ministers should have the courage of their convictions and say – loud and clear – that Raif Badawi’s case is an absolute disgrace, that this weekly flogging should be halted and he should be freed from jail...At the very least the Foreign Office should be calling in the Saudi ambassador and telling him this in person if they haven’t already done so.”I guess having the oil makes the political puffy chests fade into the back of the room until the dust settles and the next shiny news item grabs the attention of the population.
Hey, how are those Boko Haram assholes doing? We've handled them, right? Ohhh...damn....