For the past few weeks, the world has been riveted by the story of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance and murder. But while global attention is focused on Khashoggi’s fate, there are dozens of other dissidents, bloggers, and activists languishing behind bars in Saudi Arabia whose plights have been largely forgotten — and some whose whereabouts are unknown, writes Vox’s Alexia Underwood:
- Examples include Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger who criticized the country’s government and was sentenced to a decade in prison in 2013 and 1,000 lashes in public.
- His sister, Samar Badawi, a prominent human rights activist, was pulled from her home in the middle of the night this July and detained on unknown charges.
- And Loujain al-Hathloul, an activist who protested against the ban on women’s driving, was arrested along with several other women’s rights activists in May, right before the ban was lifted. She’s been charged with treason and could face up to 20 years in prison.
“What happened to Jamal is horrific and most tragic,” said Rosie Bsheer, a Harvard professor who focuses on Saudi Arabia. “But that the fate of one man, a member of the elite on all fronts, would get this much attention when dozens have met the same fate … is troubling, to say the least.”
Using a blog to exercise his right to freedom of expression, Badawi unmasked a culture of corruption and criminality, as well as the impunity that underpinned them; he challenged religious intolerance and extremism, and sparked a discussion on modernization, according to Brandon Silver, a member of Badawi’s international legal team, and Evelyne Abitbol, cofounder of the Raif Badawi Foundation for Freedom. In short, Badawi paved the way for today’s discourse and developments in Saudi Arabia concerning what the Crown Prince himself has called a “moderate Islam” and combating the “cancer of corruption,” they wrote for TIME magazine.
A Twitter-based public advocacy for Raif Badawi will be taking place this Friday at 12pm EST on the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, adds Silver, Director of Policy and Projects at the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights.
Participants should use #FreeRaif #EndImpunity #SaudiArabia along with the attached photo and a brief message. The hope is to have a unified message, although participants are encouraged to customize their own, as long as they use one or more of the hashtags and the photo. Here is a proposed message:
Today we stand in solidarity with those who risk their lives for freedom of expression, today we stand with imprisoned #Saudi writer Raif Badawi #FreeRaif #EndImpunity #SaudiArabia
A summary of the Wallenberg Centre’s legal argument for Raif can be found here.