Raif Badawi: Wife of blogger jailed in Saudi Arabia describes 'torture' of watching him publicly lashed

'I felt the pain they were inflicting on Raif as if it was my own. They might as well have put me in a square and flogged me'

Lizzie Dearden
Wednesday 18 May 2016 08:47
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Ensaf Haidar said she felt her husband's pain as she watched a video of him being lashed
Ensaf Haidar said she felt her husband's pain as she watched a video of him being lashed

The wife of jailed Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi has described the “torture” of being unable to help her husband as he was publicly flogged.

Ensaf Haidar had fled her home country to seek refuge with their three children when the first part of the brutal sentence of 1,000 lashes was carried out.

In her book, Raif Badawi, The Voice of Freedom: My Husband, Our Story, she described turning on the television to see her husband’s punishment on the news, before finding a video circulating on the internet.

Jailed Saudi blogger's wife's tearful plea

Ms Haidar described her horror as she saw him being lashed in front of a mosque in Jeddah, watched by a crowd of people applauding and shouting “Allahu Akbar”.

“It was too much for me. It’s indescribable, watching something like that being done to the person you love,” she wrote in an excerpt published by the Guardian.

“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…if only I could have done something for him!”

An Amnesty protest outside the Saudi embassy in London

Mr Badawi received 50 lashes in front of hundreds of spectators on 9 January 2015 in what was supposed to be the first of 1,000 carried out over 20 weeks.

In the wake of international condemnation and concern for his health, including pleas from prominent politicians and religious figures, the subsequent floggings have been repeatedly postponed.

Mr Badawi had been in prison since 2012 on charges of “insulting Islam through electronic channels” with his blog and was sentenced to the flogging and 10 years in prison in 2014.

The sentence was upheld by Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court last year, leaving 19 rounds of lashes pending.

In a previous blog for Amnesty International, which is campaigning for his release, Ms Haidar said her husband received an “unspeakably cruel” sentence “just because he expressed his ideas”.

“The harsh and inhumane sentence issued against Raif was meant to send a clear message to all those who might dare stand up against Saudi Arabia’s religious hard-liners,” she said.

“It came as a shock that I still cannot recover from – it has become a sheer inferno of unbearable torture.”

Ms Haidar, who is also the president and co-founder of the Raif Badawi Foundation for Freedom, said her family will continue to fight for Mr Badawi’s release, issuing pleas for a pardon to King Salman of Saudi Arabia.

She added: “I will continue pleading until the last moment.”

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