30-year-old Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi was punished in 2013 for starting a progressive website that called for, among other things, religious tolerance and women’s rights. That was insulting to Islam, his critics said, and earlier this year, he received the first 50 of his 1,000 lashes punishment. That was in addition to 10 years in jail and a 1,000,000 Saudi riyal fine (about $266,000).
There was a large crowd gathered to watch his first set of lashes:
You can catch a glimpse of what he had to go through here:
Don’t let his brave demeanor or the appearance of those lashes deceive you. By all accounts, they were incredibly painful to the point that a doctor said the following week that his wounds had not healed and further floggings needed to be postponed.
There was some hope that they would be delayed indefinitely because, week after week, news came out that Badawi would not be receiving his lashings. Maybe it was the wounds. Maybe it was the international pressure against the country.
None of that seems to have mattered. In March, we learned that there would be a re-trial for apostasy. If convicted, he would be killed.
We finally got an update today that Badawi won’t be killed.
Unfortunately, the news is effectively that awful: The Saudi Supreme Court has upheld his previous punishment, meaning that his 1,000 lashes will continue and the 10 year prison sentence will still be in effect.
Ensaf Haidar, Badawi’s wife, told The Independent she now expects the lashes to continue, with the decision to uphold the sentence by the Saudi Supreme Court meaning she and the family’s lawyers have no recourse for further appeal.
Describing her reaction after the decision was announced, Ms Haidar said: “I’m shocked.
“The flogging will start again and no one cares,” she added. Asked what could be done now to fight for her husband’s cause, she said: “Really, I don’t know.”
They didn’t give him the death penalty, but they sentenced him to several weeks of physical torture followed by several years of mental torture. This is what theocracy looks like, with Islam run amok and used to justify punishment against a man for voicing an unpopular opinion. Government officials around the world need to condemn this loudly and do everything they can to get help for Badawi.
There’s no word yet on when the lashings will resume, but any date will be too soon.