Speak up for Raif Badawi
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 19th June, 2015
It’s three years since the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was detained and although so far he has only received 50 of the 1,000 lashes to which he was condemned, his health is of great concern. Raif’s “crime” was to suggest that it is possible to be Both Saudi and liberal — to have free thoughts and express them. To the duopoly of the conservative Saudi monarchy and the country’s antideluvian Wahabbi religious hierarchy, this was both heresy and political incitement. Many NGOs and human rights campaigners around the world have taken up Raif’s case, including English PEN, which has been holding weekly demonstrations outside the Saudi Embassy in London. Some Western political leaders have mentioned the case when in discussion with the Saudi royal family, who frankly ignore such approaches as they are not backed with even a hint if any sanction. I’m ashamed that Britain is one of the prime offenders when it comes to appeasing the Saudis, because of arms sales, oil and other strategic interests. How can the UK claim the moral high ground when it turns a blind eye to the ongoing human fights abuses in the desert kingdom, including regular public beheadings? I fear that one day in the not too distant future Saudi Arabia’s rulers will be overthrown in a bloody revolution, but imprisoning and mistreating liberal nationals like Raif Badawi makes that prospect more likely, not less. King Salman is ushering in a new generation of Saudi royals, but that should be the prelude to far more radical political reforms.