Archive for January 13th, 2018

Happy birthday, Raif Badawi, still in a Saudi jail: “Freedom of speech is the air that any thinker breathes.”

Saturday, January 13th, 2018
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Saudi writer, blogger, and human rights activist Raif Badawi is spending his 34th birthday the same way he spent the last one – behind bars. He was arrested in 2012, and has been jailed for “insulting Islam” after he blogged and wrote about freedom of speech. The father of three, who was already in frail health, was sentenced to ten years in prison and a thousand lashes. He received the first fifty in 2015, and it nearly killed him. Later that year, the Amnesty International “Prisoner of Conscience” was also awarded the Sakharov Prize. The prestigious award, offered each year by the European Parliament, honors individuals and organizations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The authorities also jailed Badawi’s lawyer, Waleed Abulkhair, founder of the group Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia. He was sentenced last year to 15 years in prison for undermining the government, inciting public opinion, and insulting the judiciary.

To celebrate his birthday, five quotes from his book, 1000 Lashes: Because I Say What I Think.

“Freedom of speech is the air that any thinker breathes; it’s the fuel that ignites the fire of an intellectual’s thoughts.”

“As a human being you have the right to express yourself. You have the right to journey wherever your mind wanders and to express the thoughts you come up with along the way. You have the right to believe, and to atone, the same way you have the right to love and to hate.”

“To respect the opinions of those who stand against you is nothing short of courageous.”

“It’s a wonder of human behavior: we build our own handcuffs that trap and harm us. We create the myth, and we honor it. We tell the lie, and we believe it.”

“As soon as a thinker starts to reveal his ideas, you will find hundreds of fatwas that accused him of being an infidel just because he had the courage to discuss some sacred topics. My biggest fear is that the enlightened Arab thinkers are gong to leave the Arab world in search of fresh air: somewhere far away from the sword of the religious authorities.”