Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Our Saudi allies

From her refuge in Canada, where she and her children found safe haven from the murderous clerics in Saudi Arabia, Ensaf Haidar, wife of blogger Raif Haidar, currently imprisoned in Saudi Arabia, essentially for blogging, and sentenced to 1000 lashes, essentially a slow death penalty by public torture, recounts her experience of her husband's first fifty lashes.
It wasn’t hard to find. By now some of my Facebook friends were referring to it. It also appeared immediately on YouTube when you searched for “Raif Badawi” and “lashes”. It was as if I was being operated by remote control. With trembling hands I clicked on the video to set it in motion. I saw Raif’s delicate frame from behind, in the middle of a big crowd of people. He was wearing a white shirt and dark trousers, and his hair hung down to his shoulders. He looked thin. His hands were cuffed in front of his body. I couldn’t see his face. The men around him were wearing the usual white gowns and shouting “Allahu Akbar”.
The man himself could not be made out in the video. But I saw clearly that he was striking Raif with all his might. Raif’s head was bowed. In very quick succession he took the blows all over the back of his body: he was lashed from shoulders to calves, while the men around him clapped and uttered pious phrases. It was too much for me. It’s indescribable, watching something like that being done to the person you love. I felt the pain they were inflicting on Raif as if it was my own.
The men I had seen in the video might as well have put me in a square and flogged me. But worst of all was the feeling of helplessness. I sat on my sofa, wrapped my arms around my legs and wept. I don’t know how long I sat there for. The phone rang several times, but I didn’t answer. How was Raif now, I wondered. How severe were the wounds that he had suffered from this brutal abuse? Had they broken his bones? The violence of the blows almost made me suspect as much. Did he get medical treatment for his wounds? If only I could have done something for him!
For almost a week we heard nothing more about Raif. Then all of a sudden we received the call we were so desperate for. If I’m not mistaken it was a Thursday again when Raif was allowed to call us. His voice was weak, but he was trying to make it sound firm. “All OK where you are? How are you and the children?” he asked. I immediately started to cry. “But Ensaf,” he said soothingly. “You’re not going to weep in front of the children?” “How are you?” I sniffed. “Are you in great pain?” “It’s all fine. The wounds heal slowly.” “Are you receiving medical treatment?” “Yes, a doctor examined me. He gave me a note saying that I’m not yet fit enough to be whipped again.” “Thank God,” I said. Even if it didn’t tell me anything good about Raif’s physical state, at the same time it was positive news: at least this week they wouldn’t be torturing him anymore. He couldn’t tell me how things would go after that. “Raif,” I said, “the whole world is talking about your fate.” I took a deep breath. “The children know about it, too.” Again the tears came. “There was nothing I could do about it. Believe me, I would rather have spared them all that too.”
This sentence is not survivable. If the Saudi's whip him again, he could die from what amounts to being flayed alive, or he could heal up enough to die on the third of fourth round. So far, the Saudi authorities continue to postpone the second flogging, due to expressions of international outrage, but they haven't rescinded the sentence.

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