It’s been a decade since Raif Badawi was first briefly detained in 2008 in Saudi Arabia on nonsense charges of apostasy and insulting Islam … all because he blogged his liberal opinions online.
The charges were clearly meant as a warning to tell this then twenty-something to keep quiet. But he didn’t listen.
So several years later, in 2012, when he was arrested again on similar charges they opted to keep him locked up. And that’s where he’s been ever since. Over the past six years, Badawi has appeared before multiple courts and was sentenced to 10 years in prison as well as 1,000 lashes (he’s thankfully only received 50).
Soon after, Badawi’s wife Ensaf Haidar made her way to Canada, where she has been a prominent voice not just in her husband’s case but in supporting freedom of expression and opposing extremism wherever she finds it.
This is the background to the flare-up in Canada-Saudi Arabia relations that’s been unfolding the past few days.
Raif’s sister Samar Badawi is also a human rights activist, having spoken out against regressive Saudi policies such as the male guardianship system and the prohibition of female drivers. Like her brother, Samar had been arrested before and her latest one came last week on July 31.
It’s this development that pushed us to where we’re at now, with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland posting to social media last week: “Very alarmed to learn that Samar Badawi, Raif Badawi’s sister, has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this difficult time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi.”