When father-of-three, Raif Badawi, set up his Saudi Arabian Liberals website back in 2012, the last thing he expected was to be publicly flogged 50 times every Friday for a period of 20 weeks, and then thrown into jail for 10 years.
The sentence may appear harsh by normative western standards, and it is. All Badawi actually did was to set up a liberal leaning website which offered a platform for other people to discuss and express their personal views on religion. He also wrote articles criticizing Saudi authorities.
But in Saudi Arabia, like most Muslim states, individual personal rights, especially in terms of freedom of thought and religious expression, are not high on the list, as the masses are basically controlled by the religious and increasingly extremist elites.
As Raif stood to receive his weekly flogging on Friday, he was repeatedly struck on the back and legs, while the excited and clearly bloodthirsty crowd exclaimed “Allah Hu-akbar,” as if the lashes were purifying poor Badawi, while police and other officials stood around smiling widely and taunting the man.
As an eyewitness told Amnesty International, “Raif was escorted from a bus and placed in the middle of the crowd, guarded by eight or nine officers. He was handcuffed and shackled but his face was not covered — everyone could see his face. A security officer approached him from behind with a huge cane and started beating him. Raif raised his head towards the sky, closing his eyes and arching his back. He was silent, but you could tell from his face and his body that he was in real pain.”
Obviously, Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, is fearful for her husband as she isn’t sure he can withstand any more floggings.
As she told Amnesty, “Raif told me he is in a lot of pain after his flogging, his health is poor and I’m certain he will not be able to cope with another round of lashes. I told our children about the news last week so that they would not find out about it from friends at school. It is a huge shock for them. International pressure is crucial, I believe if we keep up the support it will eventually pay off. We must keep on fighting.”
According to Amnesty International, the prosecution had called for him to be tried for “apostasy,” which carries the death sentence, but his sentence was downgraded to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison.