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Updates on Raif Badawi with Ensaf Haidar


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen (based on Arabic to English translation by
Melissa Krawczyk)

Publication (Outlet/Website): Canadian Atheist

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/04/28

*The Arabic script is at the bottom.*

A prominent case of a writer shunted into jail within the freethought community, especially writers, is Raif Badawi.

Badawi is a writer and dissident in Saudi Arabia, who is 35-years-old. He founded the website entitled Free Saudi Liberals. As a blogger, Badawi was charged with insulting Islam through electronic channels.

In January of this year, he was flogged 50 times. This took 5 minutes. The lashes were described as “constant and quick.” This was done in public.

Badawi, as per the charge interpreted in a secular human rights context, is a prisoner of conscience for the use of the Article 19 right, via the UN, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to freedom of expression.

As with many of these cases of prisoners of conscience, or even those tortured, they do not exist in a vacuum. Badawi has a wife and children. His wife, Ensaf Haidar, lives in Canada and is a prominent, in a Canadian context, human rights voice based on the case of her imprisoned husband.

She took some time to talk to me. I am grateful for the opportunity. It should be noted: Haidar is a Canadian citizen who came from a conservative family in Saudi Arabia.

As a younger person, she had to memorize the Quran in studies. Then, as a college student, Haidar specialized in Islamic Studies, which makes her voice uniquely situated to speak on some of the issues of some Saudi interpretations of Islam with authority.

She described the situation, as follows, “My name is Ensaf Haidar, wife of prisoner of conscience Raif Badawi, imprisoned in Saudi Arabia, mother of three children, and a Canadian citizen living in the Canadian province of Quebec.”

Haidar, noting Badawi is 35 now, has been waiting and hoping for the release of her husband for 7 years now. Badawi’s case is important for a number of reasons. One is the fact of the impact on other writers or bloggers.

That is, it creates a climate of fear, where the Saudi prisons are, in fact, “full of writers.”

On Canadian leadership’s assistance to persecuted writers, Haidar stated, “I think that the politicians in Canada are doing a wonderful job. Canada has always been strong and open about defending human rights, not only in Saudi Arabia, but all over the world.”

I asked about the theocratic fear of writers with the implicit assumption of the full use of the right to freedom of expression mentioned before.

Haidar was reminded, by the questions, about the famous Saudi writer Abdullah al-Qasemi. Abdullah said the worst trait of the religious is the toleration of the corrupt but not the intellectuals.

On the distance in space and time from the man she loves, Haidar said, “ There are no words in the world that can possibly describe my feelings about Raif and what is happening to him.”

On the actionables for the rights of dissidents and writers around the world, Haidar said speaking loudly and having the conversation wherever possible is important, in addition to placing pressure on politicians to embrace human rights issues.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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