Amnesty International’s letter writing marathon has already been a huge success. The 19th of December Amnesty announced that already over 21,548 letters were written for freedom in Flanders alone.
We are proud to say we are two of those letter writers.
Our attention was drawn by Raif Badawi or actually by the warm, hopeful message his wife, Ensaf Haidar, sent out:
I fled along with our three children out of Saudi Arabia. We arrived via Cairo and Beirut into Canada. Here we continue to live and try to lead a normal life, but we are waiting for Raif.”
In May this year Raif was sentenced to 10 years in prison, a fine of 300,000 dollars and 1,000 lashes.
He was also banned from travelling for at least 10 years and is not allowed to ever work as a journalist again.
Why? Because he is the founder of Free Saudi Liberals, an online critical forum for political and social debate.
He was charged for insulting Islam through electronic channels, even though he only encouraged peaceful discussion. They also tried to charge him for apostasy, which would mean the death sentence.
Amnesty labeled him a prisoner of conscience, because the government was only detaining him for exercising his freedom of expression (a basic right) in a peaceful and civilized manner.
Even in Saudi Arabia where state repression is rife, it is beyond the pale to seek the death penalty for an activist whose only ‘crime’ was to enable social debate online”. – Amnesty International
Human Rights Watch asked for the charges to be dropped immediately, “The charges against him, based solely on Badawi’s involvement in setting up a website for peaceful discussion about religion and religious figures, violate his right to freedom of expression”.
And he’s not the only one. He’s one of the many activists in Saudi Arabia who are being prosecuted for expressing their opinions. Most of them also use blogs, Facebook and/or Twitter to spread their message, making them social media activists. Authorities are aware of this and are carrying out a ruthless campaign to silence them. Their measures are brutal. They don’t shy away from physical punishment, severe prison sentences and other penalties.
Amnesty International does what it can to stand by these activists and to stand by Raif. One of their shocking campaign images went viral and got our attention. We hope it didn’t just wake us up, but others as well.
We, the Reckless Animals team, may not have a political blog. We’re just a lifestyle site, but we do try to put creative people who are doing amazing things in the spotlight. Raif is definitely one of those people, as is his wife. The thought that we would have to answer for what we write, is beyond us. Being imprisoned for expressing your opinion, is unthinkable. We sometimes forget that it’s a privilege to be able to blog and to be able to say what you want in the way you want to.
That’s why we hope our readers and maybe other blogs as well, will take the time to consider this and will also write a letter for Raif or for any of the other artists, writers and activists who are imprisoned for sharing their thoughts and ideology. Because it undermines the power of the people, the power of the Internet and it’s an assault on the human intellect. Having an opinion, having a voice, is what makes us people. Being able to use that voice, to express that opinion, is what makes us free. Nobody should be allowed to shame us for it.
You can also send a tweet to Raif or a message to Ensaf, his wife.