Saudi blogger and activist, Raif Badawi, sentenced to 1,000 lashes, 10 years in jail and fined 1 million riyals (about $266,000), has been flogged publicly 50 times. He will go through the same punishment every Friday till he completes his sentence.
‘Saudi Arabia is endangering his health and life – if they go through with the whole 1,000 lashes, they are killing him more every week.
'It is a criminal act,’ says his wife Ensaf.
Ensaf and her three kids were forced to flee the Kingdom when Badawi was arrested in 2011. They have since been living in Quebec, Canada.
Badawi, the co-founder of a now-banned group called the Liberal Saudi Network, was arrested in 2012.
According to an eyewitness’ description to Amnesty International, after Friday noon prayers, the doomed journalist was brought in shackles to a public square in the Saudi city of Jeddah.
“A crowd gathered in a circle. Passersby joined them and the crowd grew. But no one knew why Raif was about to be punished. Is he a killer, they asked? A criminal? Does he not pray?” the witness said.
“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. The officer beat Raif on his back and legs, counting the lashes until they reached 50.”
It could be worse: In 2013, Badawi was cleared of apostasy, which could have cost him his life.
The sentence was widely condemned by human rights groups as well as the general public.
Saudi ambassador has the gall to be at the #CharlieHebdo March? Representative of state that is giving blogger Raif Badawi 1000 lashes?— Hari Kunzru (@harikunzru) January 11, 2015
Crowd shouted “Allahu akhbar” as Raif Badawi received 50 lashes for the crime of writing words. 950 more to come http://t.co/RRh97uaucT— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) January 10, 2015
“Raif Badawi is a prisoner of conscience; his only ‘crime’ was to exercise his right to freedom of expression by setting up a website for public discussion. He must be immediately and unconditionally released,” demands Said Boumedouha of Amnesty International.
"By ignoring international calls to cancel the flogging Saudi Arabia's authorities have demonstrated an abhorrent disregard for the most basic human rights principles," he added.
Saudi Arabia, ruled by the conservative royals of the Saud clan, is not a place with much freedom. But while the world knows much about the lack of rights of the Saudi women and the lavish lifestyles of the royalty, the fate of the rest is usually overshadowed.
Men, though allowed to move about freely, drive and interact openly, are also chained down by the kingdom’s strict policies. Freedom of expression is a big no-no irrespective of gender.
Badawi, therefore, sealed his fate when he decided to be open and expressive of his views. He questioned the interpretations of Islam, mocked the religious clerics' intent upon keeping the public under their thumb and was in short irreverent of all that the kingdom holds beyond reproach.