Raif Badawi’s torture

Raif Badawi’s torture

Last May the liberal Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to one thousand lashes along with ten years in prison and a one million riyals fine for ‘insulting Islam’ and setting up a web forum called the Liberal Saudi Network.

You know what that sounds like? Why it sounds like the action against the founder of the Freethinker, G W Foote.

In 1882 Foote was charged with blasphemy for having published a number of biblical cartoons in The Freethinker. These had been modelled after a series of French cartoons that had appeared earlier. After a series of trials Foote was found guilty in 1883 and sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment by Justice North, a Catholic judge. (‘The sentence is worthy of your creed,’ Foote responded.)  The Freethinker carried the banner headline ‘Prosecuted for Blasphemy’ during this period, probably increasing its sales.

French cartoons, even. However the lashings were not included, and the sentence was a tenth of the Saudi one. Maybe in another 130 years Saudi Arabia will be a little more mild.

The lashes were to be divided into twenty sessions of 50 lashes each, to be given on successive Fridays – very sensibly since a thousand lashes delivered all at once would of course be fatal. It’s nice that the Saudis are so careful.

Raif received the first 50 lashes on Friday, January 9. It’s fitting, in a way, that this was two days after the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, so that we could get all the horror in a concentrated dose.

There was no consoling surprise – no news that it wasn’t all that bad to be hit on the back with a stick 50 times. It was bad. It was so bad that when the doctors checked his condition the following week to make sure he was medically fit to be flogged again, they found that he wasn’t.

It was, indeed, so bad that the doctors again found him medically unfit to be flogged again the following week. Just imagine: the wounds caused by 50 heavy blows with a stick on naked skin don’t fully heal in two weeks.

His wife, Ensaf Haidar, pictured above, said last Thursday that her husband’s health had worsened after the first round of flogging and that he could not survive the full punishment.

Raif’s health condition is bad and it’s getting worse and worse.


The following day the next round of flogging was again postponed.

There have been protests all along – since he was arrested, since the first sentencing, since the second sentencing which increased all the punishments, and all the more since the first flogging. The protests are spreading and increasing; one can only hope they’re a massive headache for the Saudi authorities.

Raif’s wife and their three children are out of the country, safe in Sherbrooke, Quebec. Ensaf is working hard on rallying support for Raif, and letting us know how he’s doing. She told the Independent that their own front page story on Raif had moved him to tears.

Ensaf, who was forced to flee Saudi Arabia with the couple’s three children, said she last spoke to her husband ago over the phone after he received his first 50 lashes. He told her he was still “a little bit sick” but generally “fine”.

She added that she had started to tell him about the international attention his case was attracting – but was surprised at his emotional reaction when he heard that the Independent was campaigning for his release. She wrote:

I want to thank you for supporting my husband. For many years, one of Raif’s dreams was to write an article for the the Independent. When I told him that the Independent wrote on its front page ‘Free Raif Badawi’, he was crying and he told me about his dream. So many, many thanks.

Later, however, she reported worrying news on Facebook:

Important-Urgent: We received information that last Friday #?RaifBadawi was subjected to a third medical examination to see if he was fit for a second session of lashing!

This surprising/unsettling examination came despite the conclusion of a previous medical check that was done two days earlier which recommended the stopping of any future flogging. #RaifBadawi.

Strangely, the doctor conducting the examination wanted to sign the paper and approve the flogging, but due to discussions that took place and the previous medical report, he finally agreed to postpone the flogging for a further medical examination!

Will it make any difference that King Abdullah died in January and was replaced by King Salman? Probably not. Will the heads of state going to Riyadh to pay their respects to King Abdullah do anything to encourage the Saudis to stop torturing Raif? No. The BBC reports that Obama did not mention the subject in his chat with the new absolute monarch (aka dictator).

Mr Obama stressed the importance of human rights, US officials added, but did not raise the case of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi.

So human rights are important and we stress that importance, but an actual ongoing case of gross violations of human rights – well that we just won’t mention.

What can the rest of us do? Keep yelling; keep making it hot for the absolute monarchs and their Wahhabi friends.

17 responses to “Raif Badawi’s torture”

  1. Rob Andrews says:

    What we all can do is to go to the Amnesty International website and sign an online petition on his behalf. This is the URL for the US. http://www,amnesty.org I don’t have the exact URL because my old computer doesn’t load it well. But somone can find it and post it here.

    There are websites in other countries http://www.amnesty.org.uk for britain

    ‘You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything’.

  2. Angela_K says:

    How touching of the Saudis for the faux concern of Badawi’s health. It is rather like the USA where criminals have to be healthy before the are executed.

    How our own King in waiting must look to his Saudi friends in envy of having such absolute power.

  3. Broga says:

    I’m probably over sentimental compared to Charles Windsor and Obama but I can scarcely bear to think of this poor man being medically examined to discover if he is fit enough to be flogged. Charles Windsor as king? This posturing, opinionated buffoon needs to grow some moral courage first and confront his Saudi friends.

  4. Trevor Blake says:

    This is no tiny minority of extremists who distort the religion of peace. This is Islam as it has been for over one thousand years. I have all the respect for Islam it has earned.

  5. AgentCormac says:

    And if they aren’t lashing to death the people they don’t like, the followers of islam are burning them alive in a cage. What a wonderful, wonderful bunch of human beings they are.


  6. Newspaniard says:

    I shall say it again, LOUDLY… “IS REFLECTS THE TRUE UNFETTERED FACE OF ISLAM TO WHICH ALL MUSLIMS ASPIRE.” The only good muslim is an ex-muslim. Are these so-called “doctors” actually treating this dastardly criminal or are they letting his wounds fester?

  7. Cali Ron says:

    It’s barbaric and uncivilized, like everything about islam. Sometimes I think we should bomb them back to the dark ages they seem to desire, but I have a problem with the whole collateral damage thing (unlike most countries leaders who routinely send their young men off to their deaths for dubious reasons). I suspect their are many like Raif who want to be free of their repressed religion and society, but are afraid to act on those desires. Makes me appreciate the democracy and freedom I have, despite their imperfections and undue christian influence.

  8. Marky Mark says:

    Me thinks the Saudi authorities are claiming him unfit to worm their way out of carrying-out the remanding punishment, and probably due to the worldwide public outrage…and most likely this outrage would have not have taken place without the Internet, as we would not have heard about it…twenty years ago this man would have been beaten to death, in the name of “GOD”

  9. Broga says:

    @Marky Mark: You have identified why governments want controls on the internet. And we can imagine how distressed the religious outfits are at having an audience with access to criticisms which undermine the fictions on which they depend.

  10. Cali Ron says:

    Knowledge is power. Knowledge denied is power denied. This principal is obviously employed in the middle east, China, and other countries, but it’s also subtlety applied here in America, too. I don’t think it’s an accident that higher education is being priced out of reach of poor and even middle class Americans. Religion on the other hand is more about false knowledge.

  11. 1859 says:

    He set up a blog ‘Liberal Saudi Network’ and is being flogged to death for this? And his wife and 3 kids have had to flee the country?So what is it in the word ‘Liberal’ that scares the Saudis so? Clearly they do not want a people who can think, they want a people who just obey…while the petroleum dollars roll in. As for our clown prince Charlie – he’s an absolute embarrassment and I cringe at the thought of him ever becoming a ‘king’. If he had any moral backbone he would be supporting Raif Badawi not ignoring him. But do you think Charlie even knows about Raif? Someone please tell him.

  12. Robster says:

    Dear Allah, please take care of those nasty Saudis, may they be smitten (or whatever it’s called by those tainted by Islam), their oil dry up, their desalination plants fail, their cities die, Mecca slide into the sea (or sand) and let their women cast aside the beekeeper suits and learn to drive. May their leaders learn to relax and have a drink. amen.

  13. Cali Ron says:

    @Robster: You forgot Medina-may it slide into the sea as well as all their other holy sites. And I’d be willing to bet a lot of money that at least some of their leaders are drinking in private already! Religion and hypocrisy go hand in hand.

  14. David Anderson says:

    Barbaric and uncivilized it is. Now look towards the land of the free and the home of the brave murdering people with government sanctioned lethal (except they don’t work very well) injections.

  15. EJ says:

    @Cali Ron
    Religion and hypocrisy do seem connected.
    I keep discovering my own hypocritical actions and motivations in strange places, things I would not have expected to be hypocritical about, and this can be somewhat disturbing.

    Since I was a Christian most of my life, I have often wondered at the blatant hypocrisy in many religious people, including myself, and now that I am an atheist, I wonder if it might be somewhat due to the massive cognitive dissonance that all religions depend upon.
    Psychologically speaking, I mean.

    Even now, there are small hypocrisies that crop up at the oddest times. I really hate hypocrisy, too.

    Perhaps there might be some sort of neurological basis for some hypocritical thoughts and actions, or for the actions themselves, being externalized and expressed, use a part of the brain that isn’t subject to the same sort of internal review that one gets with, say, a more focused activity.
    I would also imagine that some of it could be from the changes in my thinking and having some historical basis for the difference between what I used to think and what I think now, bubbling up like some swamp gas and causing mysterious hypocrisies.
    I guess you could say that your words were definitely thought-provoking, there.

  16. EJ says:

    Also, I am reminded of the British Navy, for the lashings, as sentences of 500 lashes were sometimes meted out to some poor sod whose bloody back was often laid open to the bone, and even though they almost always died before all the lashes were administered, that did not stop the British Navy from flogging the dead, bloody, mangled body around the Fleet while in port.
    A nasty business, that.

  17. Rob Andrews says:

    What we all can do is write a letter on behalf of Raif Badawi to the UN mission of Saudi Arabia.Condemming in no uncertain terms this medieval torture. Postal mail or fax is better than email as they must get hundreds per day; and probably throw them out as spam.

    Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir
    Mission to the UN of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
    809 UN Plaza–10th Floor
    New York, NY 10017
    FAX: 212-983-4895