Flogging Delayed for Saudi Blogger; Family Calls for Mercy
Raif Badawi must have known that leaders of his country don’t tolerate dissent, but he could not stay quiet. He posted his opinions freely on his blog, Free Saudi Liberals, but his government said it went “beyond the realm of obedience” and arrested him in 2012.
Badawi’s case exemplifies how there is little protection for men and women who want to voice their opinions freely in Saudi Arabia, a country where elderly kings have for decades exacted medieval punishments on a populace that increasingly wants to join the modern world.
Rights advocates say that for crimes including “insulting religious authorities,” Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes—as in, strikes with a whip—in May 2014. In January, he was given the first dose of the corporal punishment: 50 lashes. His wife says he barely survived, and she is urging the world to call on the Saudi government to halt the punishments, which are to be doled out in 19 more installments.
Badawi, 31, was slated to get 50 more lashes on Friday, but the flogging has been postponed, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Badawi’s wife and three children live in Canada, and officials there have been pressing for his release. Immigration officials have fast-tracked his documents to speed up his return to Quebec, if Saudi officials relent.
“His treatment is outrageous—it’s cruel and unusual punishment,” Quebec Immigration Minister Kathleen Wiel told the CBC on Friday, borrowing language from the U.S. Constitution.
So, Why Should You Care? If you drive a car, have traveled in a plane, or eat food that isn’t homegrown, you likely rely on a far-reaching and intricate oil-based economy that has resulted in a massive global trade-off when it comes to human rights. When it comes to oil, the United States needs Saudi Arabia, and diplomatic relations have long put this fact ahead of human rights concerns. Women in Saudi Arabia are second-class citizens, and dissent is met with cruelty. Some of the laws are veiled in religious or tribal tradition. Others are stark calculations of a wealthy royal family that clings to absolute power.
In the Badawi case and in others involving Middle East oil powers, America’s neighbor to the north has been a bit more vocal about human rights abuses. That may have something to do with the fact that Canada has massive proved oil reserves, the third-most in the world after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, according to federal energy officials.
Nevertheless, Canada’s influence is limited: Badawi is not a Canadian citizen. Advocates are hoping petitions and a growing social media campaign under the #FreeRaif hashtag will pressure Saudi Arabia into releasing him.