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.

Podcast 21 - Pastafarian Isabelle Narayana

This week's episode is an interview with Pastafarian Isabelle Narayana done right here in Montreal. I write about Isabelle's story in a previous blog post and I was lucky enough to speak with her in person to clear up some details of her story.
Narayana, who claimed to belong to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster whose members are known as Pastafarians, went to court after the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) said she couldn’t wear a colander or pirate hat in the photo. She’d shown up to renew her permit at an SAAQ office in March 2014, in full pirate attire, but was denied. Only medical or religious exceptions are allowed to the no-head-covering rule.

Here's where you can subscribe to My Secret Atheist PodcastITunesSoundcloud,  RSS URLYoutube.

Pastafarian Isabelle Narayana went to court because she was not allowed to wear her pasta colander while getting her license photograph done at the SAAQ (Quebec DMV). The judge threw out the case, while people of other religions are allowed to wear even more concealing head coverings. In this episode, Isabelle gives some of her story that seems to have been missed by the media.

Intro Music: ‘Earth Versus the World’ by The Polish Ambassador (

Outro Music: ‘Behind The Seas’ by Possimiste (

(Image source)

Friday, 4 December 2015

Podcast 20 - Help Bangladeshi Blogger Tareq Rahim

Not much time this week! So I'm just going to set episode the twentieth down right here for you to listen to. This episode includes an interview with Monika Mistry, the wife of attacked Bangladeshi blogger Tareq Rahim. You can read about this tragic story of Islamic extremist terrorism right here and here.

I also catch up with CFI Canada National Director, Eric Adriaans, too.

Listen to the episode and look at the links below for tips on how you can help Monika and Tareq reunite safely in Montreal.

Here's where you can subscribe to My Secret Atheist PodcastITunesSoundcloud,  RSS URLYoutube.

Three months after the wedding, on Halloween day, Tareq was brutally attacked. Just hours after speaking to Tareq on the telephone, his wife Monika Mistry got the horrifying news that her husband was brutally cut down in the office of Shuddhashar publishing house, in capital city Dhaka. 

I caught up with Monika at a Montreal cafe last Friday and I’m pleased to bring you this short interview from November 28th.

This episode also includes a short talk with CFI Canada National Director Eric Adriaans.

How you can help:
Write letters:
Visit CFI Canada:
Voltaire Address:

Intro Music: Crystal Echoes by Sergey Cheremisinov (
Outro Music: The Vision (Instrumental) by YEYEY (

(Image source)

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