How one man's blog is changing a whole nation
RAIF Badawi, the 31-year-old Saudi Arabian writer and creator of secularist website Free Saudi Liberals was originally arrested for insulting Islam and showing disobedience in 2012, and was brought to court for several charges including apostasy.
Badawi avoided the death penalty as a high court threw out the apostasy charge in 2013.
Badawi received his first set of lashes after Friday prayers outside the Al-Juffali mosque in Jeddah, which Amnesty International says will continue every Friday for the next 19 weeks. On top of the lashes and a 10-year jail term, Badawi has been ordered to pay a fine of one million riyals (€230,000).
Part of the punishment, which has been enforced at a time when the debate about Islam and freedom of speech continues to rage, was in part down to "parental disobedience". It is a crime to disobey your father in Saudi Arabia, and Badawi's father reportedly went on TV to renounce his son.
He is winning millions of followers with his incredibly poignant writing. Until the website was shut down by Saudi Authorities, Free Saudi Liberals was a forum, as well as a place for Badawi to record his musings. In one post, he writes: "You have the right to express and think whatever you want as you have the right to declare what you think about it, it is your right to believe or think, have the right to love and to hate, from your right to be a liberal or Islamist."
In another post, Badawi used the Israeli occupation of Palestine as a springboard into looking at what he believed was the problematic idea of founding a nation on religion. He wrote: "What we need in the Arab and Islamic societies is more to uphold the value of the individual and uphold freedom and respect for his thinking... States which are based on a religious basis confine their people in the circle of faith and fear." (© Independent News Service)