I'm a blogger. I write about books, and my kids, and the occasional social topic or two. You know what I am doing right now? Watching two very nice guys from Crate and Barrel set up my new dining room table.
Raif Badawi is a blogger. He writes about the ideals of having an open mind. Of challenging what religious leaders say. Of free speech and liberalism. You know what he's doing today? Getting flogged for it.
The 31-year-old was arrested in 2012 for operating a website called Free Saudi Liberals. Don't bother looking for it—it was shut down when he was jailed and sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes, to be carried out 50 at a time, once a week, every Friday.
There are unverified videos of the first flogging, which began last Friday, on YouTube. News reports this morning suggest the second round has been postponed because his wounds from last week have yet to heal. Wow.
This is a guy, who if you believe Wikipedia, has been standing up to the Man since at least 2008, charged with apostasy—"conscious abandonment of Islam by a Muslim in word or through deed." Whose wife's parents tried to force a divorce. Whose wife and three children have since fled to Canada. All because he said things like this:
Those quotes came from The Guardian—one of the few places I found information about what exactly this blogger said to deserve 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison. Yeah—blasphemous stuff.
And this is about all I can find when it comes to any kind of U.S. support—the U.S. State Department's statement:
We are greatly concerned by reports that human rights activist Raif Badawi will start facing the inhumane punishment of a 1,000 lashes, in addition to serving a 10-year sentence in prison for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and religion. The United States Government calls on Saudi authorities to cancel this brutal punishment and to review Badawi’s case and sentence. The United States strongly opposes laws, including apostasy laws, that restrict the exercise of these freedoms, and urges all countries to uphold these rights in practice.
Really? That is the best we can do? I'm not going to say the story has been completely ignored in the U.S. media—NPR, CNN and several other outlets have made mention of it. But given the spotlight on Charlie Hebdo and the state of free speech, you would think there would be a larger outcry.
50 lashes. Every Friday. FOR 20 WEEKS. Because he dared to challenge authority. If you can't speak out in support of Raif, at least think of him every Friday morning. I'm thinking about him every day.
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Filed under: mumbo jumbo