Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger who ran the website Free Saudi Liberals, has been flogged, lashed 50 times as the first segment of his 1,000-lash sentence. The charges against him range from criticizing the Saudi’s ultraconservative Wahhabist clerics on his blog to failing to remove posts from others on his website. Saudi Arabia’s government is now under intense pressure to end the flogging.
An eye witness account from theNew York Times told a harrowing story. Authorities dragged Raif Badawi into a public square in the port city of Jiddah. His hands and feet shackled. Then one official read aloud the blogger’s various offenses against the Saudi state and its powerful clergy.
According to Reporters Without Borders, with each lash, Badawi said the name of one of his supporters to give him the strength to endure the punishment. The blogger did not cry out. He will receive another 50 lashes next week; the flogging will take a total of 20 weeks.
Then Badawi will have to deal with the rest of his sentence: a $250,000 fine and 10 years in prison. Initially the blogger’s sentence was seven years and 600 lashes, but the court stiffened the penalty when Mr. Badawi appealed his case.
On the upside, the blogger was found innocent of apostasy, which would have carried a death sentence. Still, the Western world is outraged by the seemingly medieval punishment.
Said Boumedouha of Amnesty International told BBC News, “[T]he flogging of Raif Badawi is a vicious act of cruelty which is prohibited under international law.”
“By ignoring international calls to cancel the flogging Saudi Arabia’s authorities have demonstrated an abhorrent disregard for the most basic human rights principles.”
The U.S., one of Saudi Arabia’s‘s closest allies, is also unhappy. On Thursday, state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki urged the Saudi regime to end its “brutal punishment.” Unfortunately, those calls have been largely ignored.
Rights activists say that Saudi authorities are making an example of Bawadi, to send a message to any other blogger or critic of the regime. Saudi Arabia’s clergy preach an ultra-conservative form of Islam called Wahhabism, from which the regime derives its authority and legitimacy. Denouncing the clergy poses a threat to Saudi Arabia’s hereditary monarchy, and it has no patience for criticism, especially not after the 2010 Arab spring.
Raif Badawi is the father of three. His wife and children are safely living in Canada.
To add insult to injury, the blogger’s lawyer was also charged and sentence. He avoided being flogged, but he’ll receive 15 years in prison according to the AP.