Showing posts with label badawi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label badawi. Show all posts

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Saudi Arabia: A Real Human Rights 'Fixer Upper'

Today, Saudi Arabia stepped timidly into the 20th century, not only are women allowed to vote - assuming they can get their menfolk to drive them to the ballots - but they can now run for office too. I'm not sure whether or not these candidates required approval from their husbands first. I'll just go out on a limb here and guess 'yes.'

In fact, time constraints forbade me from covering the recent news about Loujain Al-Hathloul, about whom I wrote earlier this year. She was thrown into jail for operating a motor vehicle in Saudi Arabia - thankfully they didn't suspect her of witchcraft or they would have killed her. Now she is running in this first election open to women in the hopes of improving women's rights in the country.

Critics think it's a ruse.
Critics argue the inclusive election is an empty gesture by the government, meant to avert media attention from the broad range of women's rights violations that persist within the kingdom.
Whatever the situation, it turns out that 19 women have won, but the report is not telling me who. I wish her the best of luck - one would think the only way possible is up; but the Saudi government has really surprised us all with their extraordinary ability to take a terrible human rights violation and turn it into an horrendous one.

To be honest, I've always admired people who have mastered IDGAF (I don't give a fuck), but the Saudi leadership have truly taken this to such an extraordinary level, that I've come to think that they do actually give fucks. They just do not understand human rights at all. If you're ignorant to the whole concept of freedom of speech and expression then you will not give a fuck about these - you may still give a fuck about how everyone else on the planet is reacting and get really confused and upset at them too.

What am I rambling about? Oh, I'm sorry, I've changed the topic to Raif Badawi.

The week before last week, the Swiss ambassador to Saudi Arabia dropped a hint that the Saudis were preparing a pardon for Raif, who made the horrible mistake of blogging his opinions in a freedom of expression free zone - (the entire kingdom seems this way).
A Swiss newspaper is reporting that imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi could have his sentence of 1,000 lashes suspended, but Amnesty International has yet to confirm the news.

The Swiss Secretary of Foreign Affairs Yves Rossier told the Fribourg daily newspaper La Liberté that Badawi's sentence was suspended.

"A royal pardon is in the works thanks to the head of state, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud," he said.
Haha! Just kidding! The Saudis really played a funny prank on Mr. Rossier there, right? It turns out that just days before International Human Rights Day - how festive! - Saudi officials moved Badawi into a super isolated prison, which is apparently the sort of place they stick people whose appeals are all over.

Oh, and the situation is so grave, that after years of confinement, Badawi has begun a hunger strike too.
Raif Badawi has today began a hunger strike as The Saudi Prison administration has transferred him to a new isolated prison.

The prison administration has transferred Raif to the notorious ‘Shabbat Central’, located in a deserted and isolated area – around 87 km from Jeddah City.

This prison is designed for prisoners whose verdicts have been confirmed with a final Adjudication. The Saudi government has repeatedly declared that Raif’s case is under review and is yet to be decided by the Supreme Court.

We express our surprise at this decision especially after the Swiss Secretary of Foreign Affairs Yves Rossier announcement on 28 November that a royal pardon is in the works. And we are very alarmed at the prison administration decision to transfer Raif to the Shabbat Central and fear it may lead to the resumption of his flogging.

As a result of this decision, Raif started on Tuesday a hunger trike and we hold the prison administration responsible for any harm that Raif may suffer.

We take this opportunity to call on his Majesty King Salman to act on his promises and pardon my husband, end his and his family’s ordeal and unite him with his wife and children.
Incidentally, Raif is diabetic. So if you think hunger strikes suck, then you better believe they really suck if you can pass out and die easily when your blood sugar levels go wonky because... you're diabetic. It's no joke, this could kill him - and I'm not entirely sure if the Saudi officials really care that much.

What can you do?  I guess you could start by signing this petition to Justin Trudeau. Don't bother trying to talk to the Saudi embassy, they're not listening.

You can go here and see other things you can do.

Again, congratulations to the newly elected in Saudi Arabia. If they want to improve human rights and equality - they've got their work cut out for them.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

CFI Ottawa to Protest Resumption of Raif Badawi's Flogging

Raif Badawi
You've probably heard by now that the Saudis intent on resuming flogging Raif Badawi - a man thrown into prison and beaten simply for blogging about human rights and critiquing the Saudi monarchy.

If you're near Ottawa tomorrow, you can help CFI Ottawa protest this sickening turn of events in front of the Saudi embassy.
Monday, November 2, 2015 - 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM

Saudi Arabia Embassy
201 Sussex, Ottawa, ON (map)
Badawi also won the Sakharov human rights prize - the most prestigious human rights award the of the European Union.
The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is awarded each year by the Parliament. It was set up in 1988 to honour individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. Last year the prize was awarded to Denis Mukwege.

Nominations for the Sakharov Prize can be made by political groups or by at least 40 MEPs. Based on the nominations, the foreign affairs and development committees vote on a shortlist of three finalists. After that the Conference of Presidents, made up of the EP President and the leaders of the political groups, select the winner.
During the announcement, European Parliament President Martin Schulz did what Justin Trudeau ought to do soon: denounce the brutal torture and jailing of Badawi.
“The conference of Presidents decided that the Sakharov Prize will go to Saudi blogger Raif Badawi,” said Schulz announcing the 2015 laureate in plenary. “This man, who is an extremely good man and an exemplary good man, has had imposed on him one of the most gruesome penalties that exist in this country which can only be described as brutal torture." The EP President added: “I call on King of Saudi Arabia to stop the execution of this sentence, to release Mr Badawi, to allow him to back to his wife and to allow him to travel here for the December session to receive this prize."
Consider going to the protest and, at the very least, tweeting to Justin Trudeau.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Raif Badawi's Flogging to Resume "Privately"

Jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi. (source)
You probably didn't miss it, but if you did, there was a statement released yesterday by the Raif Badawi Foundation informing us of grave news. It seems like the Saudis are really craving a good flogging of human rights activists. So, although Raif Badawi's case is still before their (joke of a) Supreme Court, he'll get whipped anyway.
I was informed by an informed source, that the Saudi authorities have given the green light to the resumption of Raif Badawi’s flogging. The informed source also said that the flogging will resume soon but will be administered inside the prison.

It is worth mentioning that the same source had warned me of Raif’s pending flogging at the beginning of January 2015 and his warning was confirmed, as Raif was flogged on 9th January.

While i do not understand this decision especially as Raif’s case is still being reviewed by the supreme court according to a senior source in the Saudi Ministry of Justice and according to the statement of UK Foreign Office minister, Tobias Ellwood, who told the House of Commons in July that my husband’s case was still being examined by Saudi judges.

I call on his Majesty King Salman to gracefully end my husband’s ordeal and to pardon him. I also appeal to his Majesty to allow him to be deported to Canada to be reunited with his family and children, who have been deprived of their father for more than four years.

I take this opportunity to remind Mr. Justin Trudeau, the new Canadian Prime Minister, of his promise to support Raif badawi and ensure his release. I plead with him to give Raif a White Passport to enable him to be reunited with his family in Canada.

Ensaf Haidar
Isn't it grand how they'll do the flogging in the prison this time? Of course, this is so the rest of the world won't be outraged.

A white passport is a temporary Canadian passport. The real question, though, would be how to get them to give him up. I would propose Trudeau threaten to stop shipment of arms to the Saudis. The conservatives made this evil secret pact with the Saudis in the past - human rights be damned. I don't think we, as a civilized country which ostensibly values human rights, should be providing light armoured vehicles - oft used for crowd control - to a country that so patently doesn't understand basic freedom of speech.

As I've reported before, he has diabetes, and can be more prone to life threatening infection. In fact, he's been reported as weak for awhile. I can only imagine that the Kingdom thinks it's waited long enough for world attention to dissipate.

That's why I encourage all Canadians to tweet at our PM, Justin Trudeau, who has tweeted in support of Badawi before. He needs to stand up to the Saudis even if it means putting evil pacts like the 15 billion arms deal in peril.

Remember you can also get ideas on how to help from Amnesty International Canada.

Monday, 21 September 2015

UN Human Rights Council Shamefully Sells Out

Ensaf Haidar and UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer in Sherbooke, QC.
Remember when I felt ill because the UN was totally cool with Saudi Arabia hosting that human rights summit for the UN Human Rights Council over the summer? Well, it turns out that they've given the panel over to the Saudis. I wonder how much that cost this country, with some of the most epic human rights violations in the world?
The United Nations is coming under fire for handing Saudi Arabia a key human rights role even though the Kingdom has “arguably the worst record in the world” on freedoms for women, minorities and dissidents.

Critics, including the wife of imprisoned pro-democracy blogger Raif Badawi – sentenced to 1000 lashes for blogging about free speech – say that the appointment is “scandalous” and means that “oil trumps human rights”.

Mr Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, who is leading an international campaign to free her husband, said on Facebook that handing the role to Faisal bin Hassan Trad, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador at the UN in Geneva, was effectively “a green light to start flogging [him] again”.
This just literally makes me want to puke. Here's an example of how things may go with the Saudis in charge.

It really does make me lose all faith in the UN and their so-called mandate to protect human rights. It really does seem like they are weak willed and pathetic on this front.
UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said that the appointment, made in June but unreported until now, may have been a consolation prize for the Saudis after they withdrew their bid to head the 47-nation council following international condemnation of the kingdom’s human rights record.

The Saudis’ bid emerged shortly after it posted a job advertisement for eight new executioners, to cope with what Amnesty International branded a “macabre spike” in the use of capital punishment, including beheadings, this year.
We really need to get off oil. Until this happens, you can expect more farcical displays of spinelessness like this one.

The UN is no friend of human rights nor secularists like the jailed Raif Badawi, who's wife, Ensaf Haidar, posted:

The International Community Give A Saudi Green Light To Start flogging #RaifBadawi again
Posted by Raif Badawi on Sunday, 20 September 2015
It really looks like we can no longer take the UNHRC seriously. Perhaps we could hold a fundraiser and buy them back somehow?

Read more about this over at the UN Watch blog.

(Image source)

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Raif Badawi Foundation For Freedom Created Here In Montreal

Ensaf Haidar at the foundation's launch in Berlin on Friday.
Ensaf Haidar wife of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi launched the Raif Badawi Foundation for Freedom (Fondation Raif Badawi pour la liberté) in Berlin. Friday's event was simulcast to a second opening ceremony in Montreal.
The announcement was made successively in Germany and in Montreal. The President, Mrs. Ensaf Haidar, Mr. Badawi’s spouse, was in Berlin to meet with dignitaries in order to gain their support regarding her husband’s liberation, atop of taking part in the press conference. “I am truly grateful for the support that has emerged across the world for the Foundation. This justifies in my opinion, its very existence and its necessity,” declared Mrs Haidar. “Its goal happens to embody Raif’s values, who would be very happy to see that his struggle is a concern for so many people around the world,” added Mrs. Haidar. It is to be noted that Mr. Badawi will be honorary president of the Foundation.
The foundation's stated mission:
The Foundation serves as a free platform enabling international dialogue as well as a resource centre providing academic research on legal and social topics concerning the Arab World.
You can purchase Raif Badawi's book on the site as well as make donations via Paypal. The foundation has also stated that it will never accept a donation of more than 30% of its total budget so it can remain unbought.

You can follow the latest from the foundation on their Facebook page.

This is awesome and it can do nothing but step up the pressure for cases like Badawi's. I also believe it will help other secular bloggers - the way our Office of Religious Freedom and Department of Foreign Affairs has not.

If you would like to read more, check out Veronica Abbass' and Hemant Mehta's posts on this.

(Image source)

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Powerful VICE Quebec Interview With Ensaf Haidar

Ensaf Haidar. Fridays are the day of public flogging in Saudi Arabia.
VICE Quebec has released an amazing, informative and powerful interview with Ensaf Haidar jailed Saudi secular blogger Raif Badawi, who is fighting to get her husband out of prison from her new home in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

Give this a watch, it will answer any questions you have concerning the situation.

It also goes into the foul hypocrisy of Canada and other nations in one breath condemning Saudi's obvious blatant violations of human rights while in another happily taking billions of riyals for arms deals. She handles the question regarding this with great grace.

(Image source)

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Raif Badawi's Case Being Re-Evaluated By Saudi Supreme Court

Jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi. (source)
The Independent and a number of other news outlets are reporting that imprisoned Saudi human rights activist blogger Raif Badawi's case has returned to the Supreme Court a second time for another review.
Mr Badawi’s wife Ensaf Haidar said she had been informed of the development by a senior source in the Saudi Ministry of Justice. The blogger’s family said they were hopeful that the move by the kingdom’s highest court is a “good signal” that his sentence is under reconsideration.
However, the whole process is shrouded with secrecy and so Ensaf is really unsure whether the sentence will be decreased, increased or changed at all. The last time his case was reconsidered by a court, his sentence was increased substantially. So the track record isn't good.
“I cannot say that this is good news, just that I hope it is a good sign. I expect that the flogging could still happen at any time, especially as the court could confirm the verdict then return for more deliberation, and all of this is done in complete secrecy. We do not know even on what basis the court is making its decisions.”
Meanwhile, international pressure has continued unabated and the Saudis have been feeling it. On August 10th, Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister Adel Al-Jubeir was forced to reiterate that the country's judiciary would not be interfered with.

Here's hoping that things get better, because when it comes to Saudi Arabia harsh unwarranted punishments, things do seem to always be able to get worse.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Sherbrooke Makes Raif Badawi Honourary Citizen

Wife of Raif Badawi, Ensaf Haidar, with Sherbrooke Mayor Bernard Sévigny at Sherbrooke City Hall. (source)
Today, in front of Sherbrooke city hall, mayor Bernard Sévigny declared that Sherbrooke is Raif. Raif Badawi, jailed Saudi blogger and husband of Ensaf Haidar, was declared an honourary citizen of Sherbrooke in absentia only weeks after he was granted fast track Canadian citizenship (immigration selection certificate) by Quebec.

LaPresse Sherbooke Tribune writes:
Les deux banderoles, qui couvrent une partie de la façade de l'hôtel de ville, seront installées en permanence dans l'espoir que M. Badawi soit libéré. La première porte la mention « Sherbrooke est Raif », alors que la seconde indique « Raif Badawi citoyen de Sherbrooke ».

« Les membres du conseil municipal sont profondément touchés par le sort qui est réservé au Saoudien Raif Badawi. Sa condamnation a amené tous les Sherbrookois, tous les Canadiens et les citoyens de plusieurs nations à se lever et à revendiquer le droit à la liberté d'expression, pilier inéluctable de la démocratie », a commencé Bernard Sévigny.
The two banners, which cover part of the facade of city hall, will be installed permanently in hope that Mr Badawi will be liberated. The first declares that "Sherbrooke is Raif", while the second proclaims "Raif Badawi, citizen of Sherbrooke."
"The members of city council are profoundly touched by the Saudi Raif Badawi's predicament. His sentencing has led all residents of Sherbrooke, all Canadians and the citizens of many nations to stand up and defend the right to freedom of expression -- a fundamental pillar of democracy," said Bernard Sévigny.
There will be a vigil tomorrow at 12:30pm. This will be the 27th such weekly protest held before the city hall in Sherbrooke, where Ensaif Haidar has been welcomed with open arms by the community.
Les deux banderoles arborant le visage du blogueur saoudien se sont alors déroulées d'un coup, un symbole émouvant qui a beaucoup ému la conjointe de Raif Badawi, Ensaf Haidar. Les yeux humides et la voix étranglée par l'émotion, elle a remercié tous ceux qui posent un geste pour son conjoint. « Merci pour Raif. Je pense que c'est important pour Raif. Ça lui donne du courage et de l'espoir. Je suis très, très contente. C'est très important et très touchant. »
The two banners portraying the face of the Saudi blogger were unfurled simultaneously, a powerful symbol which greatly moved the wife of Raif Badawi, Ensaf haidar. Eyes wet with tears, and voice quivering with emotion, she thanked all those who made this gesture for her husband. "Thank you on behalf of Raif. I think this is important for Raif. This gives him courage and hope. I am very, very happy. This is very important and very touching."

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Raif Badawi Book: New Quebec Edition & English Edition Foreward By Lawrence Krauss

Jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi. (source)
Editions ēdito in Quebec have put together and published some of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi's most compelling online texts and the new edition is now available for purchase in bookshops across the province. It's titled 1000 coups de fouet: parce que j’ai osé parler librement ( 1000 Lashes: Because I Dared to Speak Freely ).
1000 coups de fouet, a collection of 14 texts by Badawi that landed him in jail in Saudi Arabia, was launched by Quebec publishing house Éditions Édito with Amnesty International on Tuesday. This follows releases in Germany and France and an English translation is in the works, according to the NGO.
The initial launch was Tuesday and was even attended by opposition Federal MP Hélène Laverdière, who is Deputy Critic For Foreign Affairs.
“It’s very sad to see that the Canadian government is not doing more,” said Hélène Laverdière NDP MP for Laurier–Sainte-Marie.
She went on to point out that Canada really ought to be doing more considering we're providing refuge for Badawi's wife and family. Hopefully, Harper won't respond by kicking them out.

If you can understand French, you can watch a video report on the launch over at Radio Canada.

Another Montreal book launch was yesterday and was even attended by some government officials.

The English edition, 1000 Lashes: Because I Say What I Think,  is apparently on its way July 24th with a foreward by Lawrence Krauss!

The Gazette article about the Quebec edition I quoted above includes a few English translations to give you an idea of the sort of thing Badawi wrote that landed him into jail.
In reality, this august preacher drew our attention to a truth that had evaded us until then, from me and my honourable readers, that there exists “religious astronomers!” What a lovely and unusual name, since in my humble experience and from my research, which is not negligible on the subject of the universe, its origins and the planets, I never encountered these terms. I advise the American space agency NASA to abandon their telescopes and give them to our “religious astronomers,” whose perception and insight surpasses the defective telescopes of NASA.
You can find a list of release dates for the book over at -- Amazon links for countries and languages are there as well -- French and German are so far available.

I'll just add that it sort of pains me a little that I see so much action here in Quebec on this, but not too much outside. Perhaps it's because Ensaf Haidar is here? Well, at least they are being made to feel welcome.

You can find information on the Quebec Edito edition at there website.

Quebec edition. (source)

Friday, 12 June 2015

Quebec Grants Raif Badawi Fastrack Immigration - What's Harper's Excuse Going to Be Now?

Today, Quebec has once again proven itself to be a friend of jailed Saudi activist blogger Raif Badawi. Now that all hope is practically lost -- the Saudi Supreme Court upheld the barbarous sentence of 1,000 lashes, 10 years in prison, and $200,000 -- Quebec has granted Badawi an immigration selection certificate. They are telling the world that Badawi and his family are welcome in Quebec.
The Quebec government has granted imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi a selection certificate, a first step meant to speed up his immigration process.

Quebec Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil called Badawi's treatment "cruel and unusual" and used her discretionary power to held speed up his immigration to Canada.  
"Quebec is behind Raif Badawi," said Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil, who used a special discretionary power to grant the certificate.
Like their vote in support of Badawi back in February, today's motion went through with unanimous agreement across all parties. Listen, in highly political Quebec, you never see that sort of agreement between the parties.

While Quebec is most certainly the friend of Badawi and his brave wife and family, it very much seems like Prime Minister Harper would much rather ignore this situation so he can sell over 15 billion dollars worth of militarized vehicles to the Saudis

Maybe what would explain how getting the Canadian government to say anything even slightly more than downright grovely towards the Saudis concerning human rights has been harder than pulling teeth. They've done nothing more than ask the Saudis for clemency. I guess it's hard to bite the hand that feeds you -- although the Swedish Foreign Minister did just that and feels no remorse.

Meanwhile, in Canada:
Badawi's detention and sentence have stirred up worldwide condemnation. Quebec politicians unanimously adopted a motion in February calling for his immediate release.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has also spoken out against Badawi's treatment, but has said Ottawa's influence is limited by the fact he is not a Canadian citizen.
So why not grant him Canadian citizenship then? What will Harper's excuse be then? Or will his mouth be too stuffed with Saudi riyals to even utter an intelligible word?

The Saudis obviously still feel the heat of international disgust -- Badawi received no lashes today. However, they are likely to resume. Perhaps political expressions like this will eventually influence them. If not, then at least we can say we tried.

Edit 2015-05-12 5pm EST: 

The Saudis are reacting to world government statements about Raif Badawi sort of poorly. Here was the reaction on Thursday to the world's indignation.
An official source at the Foreign Ministry condemned statements by some countries and international organizations regarding the case of Saudi citizen Raef Badawi, although the judiciary or any official body in the Kingdom has not issued any statement on his case.

“The judiciary is independent in the Kingdom,” the source said, adding that Saudi Arabia will not accept any interference in its jurisdiction or internal affairs by any party.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Raif Badawi's Sentence Upheld - Lashes Likely to Resume

Jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi. (source)
Back in January, I posted about how the previous Saudi king, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, shortly before his death, requested that the Saudi Supreme Court re-assess the case of jailed and tortured blogger, Raif Badawi's case. This was after international outcry in response to leaked video of him receiving the first 50 lashes of his 1,000 lash, 10 years in prison sentence for blogging stuff the government doesn't like.

 Well, the highest court in the land has ruled and Badawi is to continue serving his barbaric sentence -- which will likely kill him. Such is life in a theocratic state which appears to neither understand human rights nor care what the world thinks of them.
Ensaf Haidar, Badawi's wife, told The Independent she now expects the lashes to continue, with the decision to uphold the sentence by the Saudi Supreme Court meaning she and the family's lawyers have no recourse for further appeal.

Describing her reaction after the decision was announced, Ms Haidar said: "I'm shocked.

"The flogging will start again and no one cares," she added. Asked what could be done now to fight for her husband's cause, she said: "Really, I don't know."
Short of someone breaking him out, I don't see any chance for Badawi. Protesting in the streets of Saudi cities would also work, but I'm not convinced the majority of Saudis actually think there's anything at all wrong with this ruling. Even if they did, their oppressive government would likely subdue them with the same Canadian-built light armoured vehicles (LAV III) they squelched Bahraini democratic activists with. 

You see, it's difficult to speak up against human rights violations when your mouth is stuffed with Saudi riyals.
David Nichols, Amnesty International’s senior executive officer for EU foreign policy, told The Independent at the end of last month that EU officials and the bloc’s foreign ministers had all pledged to raise Mr Badawi’s case, and human rights more generally, in their dealings with the Saudi authorities.

"But there is no evidence of that taking place," he said. This apparent silence comes despite continued use of corporal and capital punishment in Saudi Arabia.
Reports suggested that 88 people had been executed in there this year, surpassing the total for 2014.

"There are quite clearly many different interests at play,” said Mr Nichols. "Not just with Saudi Arabia, but with all countries in the Gulf – concerns such as energy, such as trade, but also on counter-terror cooperation as well."
Why should the Saudis give a shit about human rights if our dearly elected leaders -- including Prime Minister Stephen Harper -- simply cannot remove his snout from the money trough? It makes me want to throw up. He's not the only one -- it seems like the Americans and British -- and likely the Swedes too. They're all selling weapons to the Saudi regime.

It seems tyrannical to me.

Is it sick of me to hope that their lack of concern for the human rights of people in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East is merely racism? Because, if it is not just racism and they are equal opportunity ignorers of human rights violations in the name of a riyal -- well then, how much longer before the sell us down river?

The Saudis certainly have blood on their hand, but the silence of world leaders on this demonstrates to me that they are plenty degenerate as well.

I really don't know where to go from here. I am so sorry for Badawi, his wife and children.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

New #BackLash Campaign In Support of Raif Badawi

Description of new campaign. (source)
There's a new social media campaign that was started just yesterday to put pressure on the Saudi government to free Raif Badawi for the next 15 weeks.
It's quite simple really: All they have to do is take off their shirts, grab a lipstick and draw a lash on their back - preferably with a red lipstick so it stands there nice and bright. You can then take a picture of that lash and post it on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #backlash and they can also tag us with @backlashgroup so we can see it.
This evening was the first of probably many tweetstorms to spread the message.
#BACKLASH is run by @backlashgroup, a social media driven organisation that is designed to speak out for those who can’t around the world. Over the next 15 weeks we are creating a storm around a social media protest designed to release the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi from prison. He was captured for being too “liberal” in his viewpoint and peaceful criticism of the extreme Saudi Monarchic rule. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes (enough to a kill a man). He received 50 and he was then medically unfit to receive more. The Saudi’s are afraid of social media and how quickly ideas and mobilisation of opinion can happen.

We are not!

We aim to raise awareness about Raif and prevent the Saudi’s from retrying him on further charges of apostasy, which would result in a possible sentence of beheading. Raif Badawi is a symbol and represents the other 30,000 prisoners of conscience that are currently imprisoned in the Saudi Kingdom.
My hairy white man back in support of Raif Badawi behind the cut -- love handles and all. I'm a little shy about this sort of thing, but if it puts pressure on the Saudis, I'm game.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

One Drawing For Each Lashing: Indian Cartoonist's Campaign for Raif Badawi

First in series of 50 cartoons by Aseem Trivedi. One for every lash Raif Badawi has received so far. (source)
Indian cartoonist Aseem Trivedi is doing something really cool to raise public awareness of Saudi Arabia's deplorable treatment of blogger Raif Badawi who's rotting in jail now after having been sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes -- because he blogged some stuff critiquing the government and religion.

Trivedi will publish one cartoon per lashing Badawi receives. So far he's published 25 out of the total 50 lashes Badawi has received.
In January this year, Trivedi announced he planned to launch a magazine of cartoons in tribute to Charlie Hebdo. His first campaign is in support of Badawi, who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years’ imprisonment in September last year. The first 50 lashes were administered in public outside Jeddah’s Al-Jafali Mosque on 9 January. According to his wife Ensaf Haidar, his case had been referred to the Supreme Court, which could sentence him to death for apostasy.
As a sign of just how insane religious fanatics can be, Reporters Without Borders Benjamin Ismail praised Trivedi's immense courage.
“His work embodies the spirit of Charlie Hebdo. We shall be keeping an eye open for any potential repercussions from the publication of the first issue and we hereby call on the authorities to be extra vigilant concerning the safety of the cartoonist.”
Badawi is reported to be in rough shape after the first round of lashes, his diabetes could have something to do with this. Saudi Arabia could also be laying low until the world forgets Badawi before continuing the torture. That's why this series of cartoons are all the more important!

Trivedi reminds us of Badawi's immense struggle for freedom of speech in a country that obviously does not value human rights.
“In the first issue, I’m highlighting the case of Raif Badawi. I’ve published the first 25 cartoons from ’A Cartoon Against Every Lash’, a series of 50 cartoons in support of Raif. I see Raif as a new symbol of free speech, facing a lot of torture and injustice for his freedom of expression.

“He is a real crusader, as he is fighting in the hardest circumstances. And it’s our responsibility to help him in this fight of freedom. We couldn’t do anything to save the victims of Charlie Hebdo attack. But we can help Raif, surviving through the injustice."
Charlie Hebdo, Raif Badawi, Bangladeshi bloggers and now Aseem Trivedi -- in this war against those who wish to silence freedom of expression, it appears that the pen is the mightiest of weapons.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Saudi Arabia to Sweden: We Don't Want Your Monkeys!

Pygmy Marmoset (source)
Saudi officials are still apparently reeling in disappointment and disbelief from the world's disapproval of them jailing and torturing a blogger, Raif Badawi, who typed something they didn't like on the Internet.

First Margot Wallstrom criticised the kingdom for obvious human rights violations. Apparently, a huge arms deal either got scrapped or very nearly got scrapped -- it's not completely clear to me. The Saudis got really pissed off and they removed their ambassador from Sweden; then they cancelled Swedish business passports; then they restored their ambassador to Sweden and business folk could have their visas back. One things for sure, the Saudis are apparently really angry.

Now in the most passive aggressive move yet, authorities have told a zoo to refuse the monkeys!

And now this latest escalation, with a troop of four South American pigmy marmosets, weighing 100 grams each, having to suffer the consequences.

“They didn't want any monkeys anymore because of the political situation,” the director of the aquarium at Skansen, Jonas Wahlstrom, told the news agency TT.
Nope! The Saudis don't care how cute innocent and adorbs these little pygmy marmosets are! They're not going to have them -- they're not welcome! Humans are okay now -- monkeys: no way.
“The little monkeys were supposed to have gone down there, it had been decided for some time. But then they called over the weekend and said that they had been told by their authorities that 'Sweden? No, no, we don't want that',” he said.
More silliness from Saudi Arabia. Still no progress recently with jailed blogger Raif Badawi.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Saudi Arabia Bestows Greatest Honour Ever Onto Quebec

Photo posted on Premiere Philip Couillard's Facebook page of the leaders of all major political parties in the National Assembly. The members of the National Assembly unite in support of the wife of Raif Badawi, Mrs Ensaf Haidar. (source)
As I've reported, back in February, the Quebec provincial government and the city of Montreal both formally and unanimously passed resolutions in support of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi.

Apparently -- it makes me blush just thinking of it -- the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is greatly irritated by this meddling in their devious affairs and have complained officially via the Saudi ambassador to Canada. This makes me immensely proud as a Quebecer.
In a letter obtained by the CBC dated March 10 from the Saudi ambassador to Canada to politicians at the National Assembly, the ambassador says Saudi Arabia “does not accept any form of interference in its internal affairs.”

“The Kingdom does not accept at all any attack on it in the name of human rights especially when its constitution is based on Islamic law, which guarantees the rights of humans and preserves his blood, money, honour and dignity,” writes Naif Bin Al-Sudairy.

The letter goes further, blaming international agencies and the media with tarnishing Saudi Arabia’s reputation.
They also sent the letter to the federal government, who have somewhat supported Raif via the Foreign Minister and the Office of Religious Freedom, but they've never condemned Saudi Arabia for this brutality as a government body.

I'm sure the letter to Canada will make sure the Federal government puts Quebec back in its place. Yes, that's worked out real well over the past century or so.

This is no interference. This is merely what decent people do -- call out tyrant states who participate in flagrant human rights violations and resolve to do what they can to help the victims and denounce the torturers. There are no teeth to these resolutions, no economic sanctions or military action. It's just bad PR -- which is what Saudi Arabia deserves.
... The Kingdom does not accept at all any attack on it in the name of human rights especially when its constitution is based on Islamic law, which guarantees the rights of humans and preserves his blood, money, honour and dignity ...
Hold on a moment while I process this.

It's those international agencies with all their secular ideas of human rights, of course, which are the real problem. Oh yes!

Well, Quebec politicians are refusing to apologize or back down. In fact, if there's one thing the Saudis will need to learn is that Quebec is not easily silenced (e.g. do not give a f*ck). This appears to also be across all parties.
“Regimes which have an unacceptable attitude on freedom of expression have to expect that we are going to get involved in their affairs,” said Parti Québécois MNA Jean-François Lisée, a former international affairs minister and former journalist.

“Human rights is everyone’s business,” added Marie-Victorin MNA Bernard Drainville, a candidate for the PQ leadership. “Mr. Badawi’s wife is now living in Quebec, she’s a Quebecer and she’s living in Sherbrooke with her children. It is our responsibility and our moral duty to fight on her behalf.”

And Québec solidaire MNA Amir Khadir congratulated politicians for keeping up the pressure on the regime noting the letter to the legislature is proof Quebec has got its attention.

“The barbaric situation Badawi finds himself in has sparked solidarity movements all over the world which are being transformed into political pressures,” Khadir said.
Actually, according to Amnesty International’s Mireille Elchacar, the very same letter has been sent to all political states which have commented on the Raif Badawi case. So I'm guessing the Americans probably got it as well. Still, Quebec is a province within Canada, so I think it gives us something to brag about over, say, Ontario.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Visiting German Minister Pushes Saudi Officials to Pardon Raif Badawi

Sigmund Gabriel (source)
Just a day after the Saudis expressing their surprise and dismay that the world would ever disagree with jailing and torturing a guy for running a blog, the German Economy Minister and Vice Chancellor Sigmund Gabriel officially pushed Saudi government officials for Raif Badawi's complete pardon.
"We asked for a solution in dignity," he told reporters at a joint news conference in Abu Dhabi with the economy minister of the United Arab Emirates.

In Germany if a person is sentenced to prison the president has the right to pardon them, he said.

"So we asked for a solution which is possible, maybe through the same way we are doing in Germany. That was the discussion," he said, without elaborating.
It does stand to reason that the king can do whatever he wants in a monarchy.

Gabriel was in Saudi Arabia on a diplomatic and trade mission and has stressed that the situation could have an effect on trade.
After talks with King Salman in Riyadh, Germany's Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has said that the imprisonment and public lashing of blogger Raif Badawi, convicted of "insulting Islam," is testing bilateral ties.

Social Democrat Gabriel told reporters in Riyadh after his meeting with King Salman that Raif Badawi's situation was affecting his diplomatic and trade mission to the Gulf powerhouse.
This is big news because hitting the Saudis in the pocket book is hitting them where it hurts. It also shows that international pressure is being felt by leaders of democratic nations at home.

Like its relationship with Canada, Saudi Arabia buys arms from Germany. So they have something to lose -- especially with ISIS looming in the background.
The visit to Saudi Arabia also courted headlines because of German arms exports to the region, a sensitive topic for many in the country. An opposition parliamentary inquiry this week revealed that Saudi Arabia had been a key customer for German weapons makers in recent years. 
I'm waiting for Gabriel's Canadian, US and UK equivalent to do something similar.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Saudi Officials 'Surprised & Dismayed' By World's Disgust at Raif Badawi's Confinement & Torture

Raif Badawi
Four hours ago, Ensaf Haidar, wife of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi posted a rough translation of a Saudi Press Agency statement expressing surprise and dismay at the world's overwhelmingly negative reaction to the jailing and torturing of a man simply for exercising his freedom of expression online.

A little while later I found a superior translation by Elham Manea --who describes herself as a humanist and writer who stands for Humanist Islam. This is a cause I can get behind. Here is Elham's translation from an unnamed source in the Saudi Foreign Ministry (bolding is my own).
An official source at the Saudi Foreign Ministry made this statement: Saudi Arabia expresses its strong surprise and dismay of what is being said in some of the media on the issue of citizen/Raif Mohammed Badawi and the verdict against him. And while the Kingdom regrets these media outlets’ attacks against the Kingdom and its Judiciary, it emphasizes at the same time that it does not accept any form of interference in its internal affairs, and rejects the encroachment on its sovereign right or the compromising of its judiciary independence and integrity, where there is no power over the judges in their rulings. The Kingdom also stresses that all court cases are handled without distinction or exception. The source also added that the Kingdom does not accept at all any attack on her in the name of human rights, especially when its constitution is based on Islamic law, which guarantees the rights of human and preserved his blood, money, honour and dignity.

Saudi Arabia was one of the first countries that supported human rights and respected all international conventions in accordance with the Islamic Sharia. However, and in spite of these obvious visible efforts, some international agencies and some media unfortunately emptied human rights from its high implications, and drifted into the attempt to politicize and exploit them in the infringement and attack on the sovereign rights of States according to standards that can only be described as selective and duplicated to serve political goals; and this is something that the Kingdom does not permit nor accept at all.
Of course, Saudi Arabia has a deplorable record when it comes to human rights.

It pains me to say this, but I think I was right when I suggested that concepts of human rights are foreign to them. Or at least, they are so skewed by a strict and unquestioning adherence to Wahabi Islam, which permeates all branches of government in their theocratic monarchy, that human rights are nothing more than the right to absolute obedience to religious strictures.

Visit Amnesty International for information about how you can help.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Does Saudi Arabia Understand Human Rights Enough to Let Badawi Live?

Jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi. (source)
As Saudi Arabia delays Raif Badawi's flogging for an eighth week in a row, more people are joining the fight for his escape and freedom from state-sanctioned torture. It is profoundly sad to hear recent news that his being flogged nearly to death could actually be better than what could be in store for him:
We have received information from reliable sources that there are attempts within the Penal Court to retry #Raifbadawi on apostasy charges again. Apostasy charge is punishable under Saudi law with the death penalty by beheading.

We also received confirmed information that the Supreme Court has referred Raif case to the same judge, who sentenced Raif with flogging and 10 years imprisonment.

This judge is biased against raif. He has twice requested that Raif be charged with ‘apostasy’. His request was declined at the time on the ground that the penal court has no jurisdiction on cases that lead to death penalty. However, due to a new regulation issued by the Supreme Judicial Council on 19.09.2014, the Penal court has now jurisdiction over major cases, which are punishable by the death penalty, amputation and stoning.
For years, Amnesty International and other human rights groups have been raising public awareness for Raif. World leaders, city councils, British monarchs and many others have joined the fight to keep the pressure on. Here in Canada, both the Quebec and Montreal governments have asked for Raif's release. He's even been nominated for a Nobel prize.

Last week, more than sixty members of the US Congress sent a letter to the new Saudi King: 
Thus we also write to encourage you, as you assume your new responsibilities, to serve as an advocate for human rights and democratic reforms within your country. Recently, and all too often, women, religious minorities and peaceful political reformers have faced major obstacles to their desire to freely express themselves and fully participate in public life in Saudi Arabia. These obstacles include intimidation, harassment, and threats, and some have paid a heavy price for their efforts. As you may know, promoting human rights and religious freedom are key objectives of U.S. foreign policy. We are aware of cases of persons who have been charged with apostasy or deported for practicing minority Muslim or Christian faiths. Others have received harsh sentences for exercising basic rights. One example is Ralf Badawi, who was sentenced to ten years in prison and a thousand lashes for founding a website that encouraged religious and political debate. In his case, representatives of the U.S. government have called upon your country to cancel the sentence, and have also expressed concern with the 15-year sentence and the travel ban imposed on his lawyer, Waleed Abu AI-Khair. Another example is that of the independent human rights organization, the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), whose founders have all either been wrongfully imprisoned or put on trial.
This is amazing and I wish Stephen Harper -- who is apparently standing obstinately against saying anything in support of Raif -- would crawl out from whatever rock he's under and do something similar in our Parliament.

The worldwide response is very uplifting and I hope it has a positive effect. However, I have a growing concern that the pressure being exerted on the Saudi officials is having an effect -- just not the one we want. Could it be that the Saudi government and judicial apparatus is so out of touch with any concept of human rights that it is simply unable to understand why this imprisonment is wrong?

The sudden suspension of the lashes and now the possibility of a retrial with the charges of apostasy -- a sentence punishable by death -- are not acts of a court system with any sort of firm grip on human rights or freedom of expression. 

Is this retrial a highly misguided move by a government which perceives a growing international PR disaster? What if they now realize that thrashing a man to a pulp for blogging severely hinders their public image -- possibly rendering even business associations with them toxic? It sounds ridiculous, but what if they actually believe a positive charge of apostasy would somehow make Badawi worthy in the eyes of the world of death? Then, after the beheading, this PR fiasco would die down and Saudi officials could get back to business as usual? I know it's terrible, but I cannot stop myself from thinking this.

Perhaps I'm projecting here. Who knows what's going on between the ears of some of these officials. Still, it wouldn't surprise me if some believe this could be the easiest and most excusable way out.

You can help keep the pressure on by visiting the Amnesty International page on Raif Badawi!

Monday, 23 February 2015

City of Montreal Calls For Release of Raif Badawi

Montreal mayor Denis Coderre with representatives from all parties.
Wife of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi met with Montreal city mayor Denis Coderre today. As was the case with the provincial government, a motion was passed at city hall supporting Badawi's plight and asking that Stephen Harper and the federal government do more. Yes, still waiting for the conservatives.

Mayor Denis Coderre announced:
“Today the city of Montreal adds its voice to those of numerous other actors nationally and internationally protesting the public and inhuman flogging of Raïf Badawi,” Coderre said. “Mr. Badawi was is in prison because he raised the concepts of secularism and freedom of expression on his blog.

“Today we ask that the government of Canada intercede with the Saudi government to gain the immediate freedom of Mr. Badawi and push for his return to Canada to be with his family.”
The Canadian government have already more or less stated that they cannot do much because Raif is not a Canadian citizen. Many, including myself, see this as a convenient out -- especially since Canada has a multi-billion dollar arms contract with the Saudis.

Mayor Coderre reminds us that the Canadian government could be doing much more.
In response to the Canadian government’s assertions its influence is limited because Badawi is not a Canadian citizen, Coderre said that while international diplomatic issues are sensitive, there are ways in which the government can exert influence. Members of Parliament need to raise the issue in the House of Commons with new Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson. Prime Minister Stephen Harper should phone Saudi officials. Most importantly, international pressure has to be maintained in the media. Amnesty International’s petition calling for Badawi’s release has more than 82,000 signatures.
Or how about not doing business with oppressive human rights violating regimes? There are quite a few things our government could do if they got their noses out of the feeding trough.

Badawi's health is fading though, and it seems like the Saudi authorities are happy to just let their problem go away.  You can tell by Coderre's speech in the video that he's not sure if this will help -- but we need to keep trying.

In a La Presse article covering this story, Ensaf gives the sad news of Badawi's precarious health and the urgency of the situation -- if Harper is going to do something useful, he better do it now.
Mme Haidar se réjouit de ce nouvel appui. « Elle sent qu'il y a de la mobilisation autour d'elle, qu'elle n'est pas seule et qu'il y a de la solidarité autour de sa cause », a déclaré son traducteur à sa sortie de la salle du conseil. La santé de son mari est précaire, a-t-elle précisé. Il souffre de problèmes de pression artérielle en plus de son diabète.
Haidar is happy with this new support. "She senses that there is action around her, that she is not alone and that there is solidarity around her cause," declared her translator as she left the council room. The health of her husband is precarious, she underlined. He's suffering from high blood pressure in addition to his diabetes.
I really hope something happens soon. With every passing day, my dread grows.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Coalition of 20 Human Rights Groups to Award Raif Badawi With Courage Award

Jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi. (source)
Less than three weeks after jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, an international coalition of 20 human rights organizations, Geneva Summit, has announced it will award Badawi with a Courage Award.
GENEVA, February 17– A coalition of 20 non-governmental human rights groups announced today that Saudi blogger and rights activist Raif Badawi — sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for “insulting Islam” by creating a website for Saudi liberals — has been selected as the 2015 recipient of the prestigious Geneva Summit Courage Award. Last year’s prize went to blind Chinese lawyer Chen Guangcheng.

“I am very happy to hear this,” said Ensaf Haidar, Badawi’s wife, now based in Canada, who will be accepting the award by video when it is presented next week in a ceremony before UN delegates, human rights activists and journalists, on Tuesday, February 24th, 2015, at the 7th annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy. (See list of speakers below.)

The NGO coalition is honoring Badawi “for inspiring the world with his extraordinary courage in the defense of liberty and universal human rights.”

The conference will feature top-name activists, former political prisoners and victims from China, Russia, Iran, and many other human rights hotspots, who will seek to influence foreign ministers gathering across the street days later to open the annual session of the UN Human Rights Council.

On January 9, Badawi received the first 50 lashes, and was due to receive the remainder over 19 weeks. Following international outrage, he has been spared each Friday since then, but remains in prison. Prince Charles raised Badawi’s plight with the Saudi king last week.

Furthermore, Markus Loening of one of the organizations, Liberal International, said:
“Raif Badawi displayed enormous personal courage in his fight for the most fundamental liberal value: freedom of speech. This he has done under the most perilous of conditions."

“He should be assured that he is not alone in his struggle against suppression of basic liberties in Saudi Arabia and I hope that this award will be recognized as a symbol of the importance of tolerance in any society. For oppression to thrive, critical voices need only remain silent.”
Visit Amnesty International's page on Raif Badawi to see how you can help:

Incidentally, I've written about one of the member organizations, Uganda's LGBT equality group Freedom and Roam, before.

via Veronica Abbass

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