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On Raif Badawi Now With Ensaf Haidar


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

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

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

The Arabic script is at the bottom.*

To the community of international dissidents and writers, one important Saudi voice is a freethinker, blogger, and humanitarian Raif Badawi.

He has been in jail in Saudi Arabia for the use of the right to freedom of expression provided by the United Nations. However, and unfortunately, he has been in jail for using it.

It is based on religious law, as in blasphemy for purportedly insulting Islam — not Muslims — but the religion. Now, he is 35-years-old.

Some background. He founded Free Saudi Liberals in order to write, freely. In the midst of doing so, he was found to have insulted the religious hierarchs, and so the religion.

The main, specific, charge is the insulting of Islam through electronic channels. As a result, and most recently in January 2019, Badawi was flogged 50 times over 5 minutes in public, in Saudi Arabia.

Badawi has a wife and children. His wife’s name is Ensaf Haidar. She came from a conservative Saudi family, and lives in Canada now. She speaks on human rights and for the freedom of her imprisoned husband, Badawi, too.

When she described her earlier life, she talked about memorizing the Quran during early life studies. Then she spoke about specializing in Islamic Studies in college.

She considers, and others do too, her husband to be a prisoner of conscience. He is in prison in Saudi as such. Haidar is the mother of three children and living in Quebec.

Her husband’s case is important because it’s a) her husband, b) to do with freedom of expression and human rights, and c) the inflicting of the state onto dissidents and writers.

Haidar explained how this creates a culture of fear in Saudi. In fact, the prisons in Saudi Arabia are packed with writers. On the question of Canadian support for human rights, Haidar was positive.

She said, “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.”

There is a fear of theocrats or theocratically minded individuals and states over writers and the use of freedom of expression. This is an important point bearing in mind in the current period of repression and killing of journalists.

Haidar was reminded, by the questions, about the famous Saudi writer Abdullah al-Qasemi who said the worst aspect of the religious comes from intolerance for intellectuals and intolerance for corruption.

She sees the important point for everyone is to continue to have the conversations, to speak loudly and broadly on human rights, and to put pressure on the political class to do something about rights violations, including the case of Badawi.

I asked about the distance with Badawi and the feelings. Haidar opined, “There are no words in the world that can possibly describe my feelings about Raif and what is happening to him.”


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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