By Edan Tasca

As you may recall, in 2013 Saudi Arabia convicted dissident and activist writer, Raif Badawi , of “ insulting Islam through electronic channels .” Badawi had created the website Free Saudi Liberals , which encouraged the kind of cultural debate that is forbidden in Saudi Arabia. Badawi’s sentence amounted to 10 years’ imprisonment, a fine of one million riyals (approximately $358,000 Canadian), a ban on media work and international travel for 10 years after his release from prison, as well as 1000 lashes. The website was shut down after Badawi’s conviction.

In an alarming turn of events, Badawi has disappeared. Until last month, Badawi had been in regular contact with his wife, Ensaf Haidar, who fled Saudia Arabia with the couple’s three children to Canada, where the family has been awarded citizenship. However, Ensaf reports that she has not heard from Raif in several weeks. His once-daily phone calls ended on January 14 of this year, with no explanation. The Saudi government has not been forthcoming. Ensaf is scared. Who can blame her?

The family is worried for Badawi’s safety. In particular, his health had been recently threatened by taking on two hunger strikes toward the end of 2019, to protest the poor living conditions in the Saudi prison. He has endured 50 of the 1000 lashes. The lashing was halted to allow Badawi to heal, and has not resumed, as far as anyone knows.

Despite efforts by the Canadian government and members of the U.S. Congress , to petition the Saudi government for leniency, Badawi remains behind bars. In 2015, in absentia, Badawi was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

See here for a more comprehensive treatment of Badawi’s case.

This article appears in the March 2020 version of Critical Links.