50 days since 50 lashes - why won't Saudi Arabia release Raif Badawi?

Tell Raif Badawi you have not forgotten him


50 days ago, a 29-year-old man serving a ten-year prison sentence in Saudi Arabia was taken from his cell and driven to a square in Jeddah in a district populated with government buildings.

Friday prayers had just finished and people were streaming out of al-Jafali mosque, which overlooked the square.

The young man, chained and shackled, was led from the police van by security officers. They took him to the centre of the now large crow that had gathered in the square - passers by had joined worshippers to see what was going on; nearby roads had been blocked off, and there were policemen everywhere.

A security officer walked behind the shackled prisoner and began beating him across the back, in the middle of the dense crowd.

An eyewitness told us that the prisoner made no sound while he was beaten, 'but you could tell from his face and his body that he was in real pain'. They beat him 50 times in less than five minutes. 'When it was over, the crowd shouted "Allah-hu Akbar! Allah-hu Akbar!" – as if Raif had been purified'.

The public spectacle was over; Raif Badawi was led back to the van and returned to prison.

Send Raif a message on Facebook and Twitter

Tweet Raif your support

We've suggested a couple of tweets below, telling Raif (his account is currently being managed by his wife, Ensaf) that you've not forgotten him, and asking the Saudi Arabian king to release this prisoner of conscience.

Hit the button to post a tweet. Feel free to edit the message if you wish.

Tweet 50 days since @raif_badawi's flogging but we've not forgotten him, @KingSalman. Free #Saudi prisoners of conscience

!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+'://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs');Tweet 50 days since your lashes - we're still with you @raif_badawi! Free #Saudi prisoners of conscience, @KingSalman !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+'://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs');

Post a message of solidarity on Raif's Facebook page

Post on Raif's Facebook page

The Free Raif Facebook page is, as with Raif's Twitter account, being managed by Raif's wife. She can pass your messages of support on to her husband - and your support means a lot to Ensaf, too.

(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_GB/all.js#xfbml=1"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));

Post by Amnesty International UK.

50 days on, we must keep speaking Raif's name

It's been 50 days since Raif Badawi was flogged very publicly 50 times by Saudi Arabian officials, and his case suddenly became known around the world.

In the week leading up to his flogging on 9 January, Raif's name appeared more and more frequently in the headlines. At the time, governments - including Saudi Arabia and our own leaders in the UK - were putting out statements defending free speech after the Charlie Hebdo shootings. Raif had been sentenced to a decade in jail, 1,000 lashes and various fines and bans for blogging and advocating free speech on his website; his treatment by the Saudi Arabian authorities decrying the Hebdo attacks encapsulate the hypocrisy of a regime saluting free speech with one hand, and beating it down with the other.

The campaign for Raif's freedom

Raif's punishment of 1,000 lashes was due to be delivered weekly, after Friday prayers. But, as of today, he has 'only' been flogged once, on 9 January. Surely this is in no small part due to the widespread calls for his release from individuals and governments around the world.

The growing number of people speaking out while Raif is silenced has been phenomenal. At Amnesty, we held vigils and protests around the world. Over a million of you signed our global petition for his freedom. And we continue to call on representatives of the UK government to work for Raif's freedom; regrettably our government continues to wear the Saudi muzzle and keep schtum when asked to call for Raif's release.

Raif continues to be regarded as a symbol of the struggle for free speech. Just this week, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle awarded him a free speech prize. He was named as the winner of this year's courage award at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy the week before.

The accolades and admiration for Raif's bravery in the face of a regime with little respect for free speech are heartening. But we must not forget that Raif is still imprisoned for a decade, and still at risk of 950 lashes.

The torture of uncertainty

Raif's case was pending review by the Supreme Court when he was flogged (it'd been passed to the Supreme Court in December last year, after his sentence was upheld in the appeals court in September). On 3 February, the Supreme Court referred his case back to the Criminal Court - which means it's likely that Raif will be asked to noce again appear before a Criminal Court hearing.

Every week, meanwhile, Raif remains at risk of 50 lashes. The week-by-week decision making, while Raif's case bounces back and forth between courts, adds another element of uncertainty and stress to the turmoil Raif and his family are enduring.

Just tonight, Raif's wife has tweeted that a source has suggested her husband could once again be tried for apostasy, which in Saudi Arabia can be punishable by death. If true, this is incredibly worrying.

Very Urgent: An official source told me that Raif Badawi maybe facing death penalty for apostasy again

— رائف بدوي (@raif_badawi) February 28, 2015

Yes, Raif is one of many prisoners of conscience punished simply for speaking out in Saudi Arabia - but his case has enabled the regime's crackdown on free speech to be seen and talked about around the world.

We owe it to Raif to continue to call for his freedom, and let him know that around the world, people stand by him.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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1 comment

I have written to my MP, Andrew Stephenson tonight, urging him to contact whoever he can who may have some influence in this matter

francesaspencer_1 8 years ago