June 12, 2015
(ANTIMEDIA) Last weekend, the Saudi Arabian Supreme Court upheld the conviction of blogger Raif Badawi—and consequently may have sealed his fate. Sentenced to 1,000 lashes and ten years in prison for what would be considered only mild political and religious criticism elsewhere, the extreme nature of his punishment could be akin to a death sentence—the first set of 50 lashes in January left his body so wounded, doctors ruled he was unfit to receive more. On Friday, they begin again.
Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, fears he will not survive this next round. She lives in Québec with their children, where they’ve been since being granted refugee status by the Canadian government in 2013.
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Badawi’s sentence stems from Free Saudi Liberals, the blog he founded in 2008 to provide an open forum for political and social debate. But the blog immediately caught the eye of the oppressive government and when he failed to remove the so-called “offensive content”—including an article lampooning the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (Saudi Arabia’s religious, morality police)—the government charged him with abandoning Islam, or apostasy, which is punishable by death.
Haidar says that simply isn’t true—her husband only wanted to promote tolerance in a country that sorely lacks precisely that. Badawi is not permitted under the law to appeal his conviction.
Outraged human rights groups and countries around the globe have condemned the punishment, including eighteen Nobel Laureates who penned a letter that was given to The Independent urging their peers in Saudi Arabia to be “heard arguing for the freedom to dissent,” adding:
“The fabric of international co-operation may be torn apart by dismay at the severe restrictions on freedom of thought and expression still being applied to Saudi Arabian society.”
One of those ostensibly outraged foreign nations is the United States—an exceedingly dark irony given the continued cozy relationship the two governments keep.
The Saudis are notorious for extreme human rights violations in the name of religion and yet the U.S. government maintains the alliance under the guise of combating that exact extremism. And, as Slate notes, the U.S.’s closest ally in the Middle East has a fond attachment to punishing its lawbreakers in the same manner as ISIS—beheading. At this point in 2015, the Saudis have carried out that sentence 94 times—a stark comparison to last year’s total of 87.
Saudi judges apply a rigid interpretation of Sharia law to their personal determination for how punishment should be applied. Insulting religion in any way is prone to inducing merciless punishment, as the blogger who simply wanted to encourage debate can attest.
Raif Badawi will be flogged in a public square outside a mosque in Jeddah on Friday—his life in the hands of a brutal, extremist government amidst global condemnation. Without a move to sever its ties, the government of the United States silently applies a stamp of approval.
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