20 February 2019
Supporters of Raif Badawi protest outside the Saudi embassy in Rome. Photo: New Yorker
Supporters of Raif Badawi protest outside the Saudi embassy in Rome. Photo: New Yorker

Saudi silent as outrage grows over blogger flogging

World outrage is mounting against Saudi Arabia over the flogging of a jailed blogger but the government in Riyadh remains silent.

Raif Badawi received the first 50 of 1,000 lashes on Friday for running a liberal website devoted to freedom of speech in the conservative kingdom, according to the Guardian.

Anger at the flogging, carried out as the world watched the bloody aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo and Jewish supermarket jihadi killings in Paris, is sharpening against a country that is a strategic ally, oil supplier and lucrative market for the West.

Badawi was shown on a YouTube video being beaten in a square outside a mosque in Jeddah, watched by a crowd of several hundred who shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) and clapped and whistled after the flogging ended.

Badawi made no sound during the flogging and was able to walk back unaided afterwards.

His wife, Ensaf Haidar, told the Guardian from Montreal on Sunday that “many governments around the world have protested about my husband’s case.”

“I was optimistic until the last minute before the flogging but the Saudi government is behaving like Daesh [a derogatory Arabic name for Islamic State or Isis].”

Saudi Arabia joined other Arab and Muslim countries in condemning the murder of 12 people at the Paris satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo but angry comments highlighted its double standard in meting out a cruel punishment to a man who was accused of insulting Islam.

One cartoon circulating on social media showed a man resembling Badawi being flogged alongside the words: “Saudi Arabia condemns the terrorist attack on freedom of expression in Paris …”

Another image showed a pencil being flayed by whips.

One woman at Sunday’s Paris solidarity rally carried a placard declaring: “I am Raif Badawi, the Saudi journalist who was flogged.” Others protested at the presence of the Saudi foreign minister.

Badawi was sentenced in May to 10 years’ imprisonment and 1,000 lashes – 50 at a time over 20 weeks – and fined 1 million riyals (US$266,300).

He is expected to receive another 50 lashes this Friday.

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