It doesn’t look like there’s much we can do now. Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger, will receive the first batch of his 1,000 lashes today. All for the “crime” of running a progressive website that called for, among other things, religious tolerance and women’s rights.
Yesterday, the U.S. State Department issued a statement in defense of Badawi:
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.
Too little, too late, I fear. It’s easy to write a short statement from afar. There’s no indication that anyone in the State Department did anything tangible to put a stop to this cruel punishment, and a half-heart statement of concern won’t do much for his family. It’s possible that an attempt at resolution would have been rebuffed by the Saudis, but if we don’t even try, what hope can we place in our government?