On 12 April is the beginning of Ramadan this year. This is traditionally a time for the pardoning for prisoners (including political prisoners). We want to invite you to join us on Saturday, 10 April for a tweet storm in support of Raif Badawi. He was arrested almost nine years ago and it is high time for the Saudi the authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally.
Please join and share the post. We want as many participants as possible. Please read the post and continue to support him even when the Tweet Storm is over.
1. Who is Raif Badawi?
Raif Badawi is a Saudi Arabian blogger und human rights activist. He was born on 13 January 1984. He is the creator of the website Free Saudi Liberals. His website was a place of political and social debate where Saudis could discuss different topics freely and exchange their ideas. Raif Badawi is married to Ensaf Haidar. They got to know each other when he was 18 years old. They married shortly afterwards in 2002. They have three children: Najwa Badawi (born in 2003), Doudi “Terad” Badawi (born in 2004) and Miriyam Badawi (born in 2007).
Before his arrest in 2012 Raif Badawi has been harassed by the authorities for years. He had been previously arrested in 2008, but was released after one day of questioning. In addition, the authorities froze his bank account and put him under travel ban, so that he could not leave the country.
On 17 June 2012 Raif Badawi was arrested again. The charges against him were “insulting Islam through electronic channels”, later also apostasy (conscious abandonment of Islam) was added which carries a mandatory death sentence in Saudi Arabia. His trial began shortly afterwards. In December 2012 the Jeddah District Court referred the charge of apostacy to a higher court. This higher court found him guilty of apostacy, but did not sentence him. In July 2013 he was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes for founding an internet forum which “violates Islamic values and propagates liberal thought”. His website was closed. One year later in 2014 his sentence was increased by an appeal court to 1000 lashes, 10 years in prison and a fine of 1 riyals (roughly $266,000; £133,000). On 9 January 2015 received the first 50 lashes in public in front of the mosque in Jeddah. He was supposed to received the complete 1000 lashes over 20 weeks, however this did not happen. First further lashes were postponed for medical reasons by first one week and then another week. Ultimately the Saudi authorities did not give him further lashes. One reason was probably the large international public outcry which followed the first flogging of Raif Badawi. Around the same time the courts reviewed again his case and there was even the risk that a new court would sentence him for apostacy to death. Luckily this did not happen.
Ensaf and the children fled Saudi Arabia before his arrest. They were first in Egypt and then in Lebanon when the trial against Raif began. However they received threats and did not feel safe. They were granted political asylum by the Government in Canada in 2013. She now lives with the children in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada. Ensaf and the children are in the meantime Canadian citizens.
2. What is Raif Badawi’s current situation?
Raif Badawi has in the meantime spent 3220 days in prison. These are 8 years 9 months and 25 days. He has been on hunger strike a few times and there were threats that Saudi Arabia would start to lash him again (in particular in June 2015 and October 2016). On 12 April 2021 Ramadan will begin. This is a typical time for pardon of prisoners (including political prisoners). Irwin Cotler, the international legal counsel to the Badawi family, had conveyed a clemency petition to the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
There are further developments, in particular in Canada and in Saudi Arabia:
In January 2021 the House of Commons in Canada voted unanimously to demand the Immigration Minster to grant Raif Badawi Canadian citizenship. So far the federal government in Canada has not yet granted him citizenship and argues that such a step might even worsen his situation. However Brandon Silver who is a member of Raif Badawi’s international legal team argues to give Raif Badawi Canadian citizenship is not unprecedented and would give Canada a better standing in discussions with Saudi Arabia. Also Irwin Cotler argues in the Washington Post that it is important to act and put concerted public pressure on Saudi Arabia to secure the release of political prisoners. A decision of the Canadian government about the citizenship is still open.
There are also recent reports that there are new investigations against Raif Badawi for allegedly “harming the reputation of the country”. There seem to be also investigations against Ensaf Haidar who campaigns tirelessly for her husband. It is feared that the authorities could use these investigations and new trumped up charges to keep Raif Badawi for even longer in prison. It is not clear yet, whether these will result in further legal proceedings against Raif Badawi and maybe also his wife.
There are also positive signs from USA. About two weeks ago the US Senator Dick Durban made a speech on the US senate floor and asked in this speech for the release of political prisoners around the world. He emphasised in particular four prisoners, among them Raif Badawi. The other prisoners were Waleed Abu al-Khair (Saudi Arabia) who defended Raif Badawi and was himself arrested in 2014 and as sentenced 10 years and a 15 year travel ban, Senator Leila De Lima who has spent four years in prison in the Philippines and Ahmed Mansoor is an UAE human rights defender who was arrested in March 2017 and sentenced to 10 years in prison. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you certainly know him.
3. When does the Tweet Storm take place?
The tweet storm will take place on Saturday, 10 April 2021 at 4pm – 6pm (GMT).
This is equivalent to 5pm (London), 6pm (Paris), 7 pm (Saudi Arabia), 12 noon (Quebec), 12 noon (New York), 9am (Los Angeles).
If you cannot make it, then please let your followers know about the tweet storm and ask them to join. We want to have as many tweets as possible. Please retweet the tweets of other people and post your own tweets.
4. What shall I tweet?
- Send tweets to Saudi Arabia, in particular to the King of Saudi Arabia (@KingSalman). Please send also tweets to other authorities in Saudi Arabia like the Ministry of Interior (@MOISaudiArabia), the Ministry of Justice (@MojKSA) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (@KSAMOFA). Ask them to quash the judgement against Raif Badawi and to release him immediately and unconditionally.
- You can also tweet to politicians in Europe, the US and Canada, e.g. Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF). High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy; Marc Garneau, Foreign Minster of Canada (@MarcGarneau) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of your country. Feel free to tweet in your own language.
- Send tweets to raise your followers’ awareness for Raif Badawi. You can also send tweets to journalists and newspapers and ask them to report about him.
- Send tweets to @RaifBadawi with words of support. You can tweet that you stand with him, that you have not forgotten him and that you will campaign for him until he is released and similar messages. Please also send messages of support to Raif Badawi’s wife Ensaf Haidar (@miss9afi) and the children.
It is always a good idea to use pictures or tweet newspaper articles. You will find links to a few articles below under 7. Further Information.
5. Is there a special hashtag?
Please use for all your tweets (irrespective of the language in which you tweet) the general hashtag #FreeRaif. it is easy to find and retweet the tweets of other
6. Suggested tweets
You can write your own tweets, but if you need some inspiration, then here are some examples. Kimberly Lenz also prepared a Pastebin with a large number of tweets: https://pastelink.net/2ss0n. Many of the tweets include links to newspaper articles or two photos. They are all a great source. Please use them.
Here are a few more examples for tweets:
- #SaudiArabia: @raif_badawi is not a criminal, but a brave human rights defenders. He has in the meantime already spent more than 8 years 9 months in prison. Join me and urge @KingSalman to release him immediately and unconditionally @MOISaudiArabia @MojKsa @KSAMOFA #FreeRaif
- @KingSalman quash the unfair sentence against @raif_badawi and release him immediately and unconditionally. He is a blogger, human rights activist and prisoner of conscience #FreeRaif @MOISaudiArabia @MojKsa @KSAMOFA
- @KingSalman @KSAMOFA @MOISaudiArabia With #Ramadan approaching, now is the time for good will. Release #RaifBadawi immediately & unconditionally so that he can reunite with his family in Canada. #FreeRaif
- #SaudiArabia: @raif_badawi has now been separated for almost 10 years from his wife @miss9afi and their children Najwa, Terad and Miriyam. They miss him, can’t wait any longer for him and want to put their arms around him. Please @JustinTrudeau do what you can to #FreeRaif
- “Raif Badawi was brave enough to raise his voice and say no to their barbarity. That is why they flogged him.” Please @JosepBorrellF intercede for @raif_badawi. He received in 2015 the Sakharov Prize of @Europarl_EN, but he is still in prison, separate from his family. #FreeRaif
- Please @guardian write about @raif_badawi #SaudiArabia. He was arrested more than 8 years 9 months ago. In 2015 he received 50 lashes. According to his sentence 950 more should come. Please do not forget about him, but support the campaign to #FreeRaif
- “@Raif_badawi is not a criminal, but a courageous advocate of coexistence. He should be lauded, rather than lashed, for his leadership.” @IrwinCotler #FreeRaif https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/03/08/raif-badawi-saudi-arabia-persecution/
- Please be assured @raif_badawi that we stand with you and will campaign for you until you are free at last. We will not forget you, but call for #FreeRaif as long as it takes.
- We will keep shouting: #FreeRaif until #SaudiArabia finally releases you, @raif_badawi immediately and unconditionally. We will also keep supporting your brave wife @miss9afi and help her in her struggle for your freedom. #FreeRaif
- We will not be silent or turn away, but continue to demand #FreeRaif. You have been arrested more than 8 years 9 months ago and we have been already campaigned for you and stood at your side for all the way. We will there until you @raif_badawi are free at last!
7. Further information
I want to provide you with a couple of links to recent articles about Raif Badawi with further information.
a) One Way Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman Can Prove He Is Sincere About His Reforms: Free Raif Badawi, by Brandon Silver and Evelyne Abitbol, Time, 5 April 2018
b) House of Commons unanimously approves motion to grant citizenship to Raif Badawi, CBC News, 28 January 2021
c) Jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi under new probe for ‘damaging the reputation of the Kingdom, National Post, 1 March 2021
d) Would giving this man Canadian citizenship help him — or make his life in a Saudi jail even worse? by Douglas Quan, Toronto Star, 3 March 2021
e) Opinion: Saudi Arabia is persecuting a peaceful blogger — again. Silence could be disastrous, by Irwin Cotler and Brandon Silver, The Washington Post, 8 March 2021
f) Liberals accused of ignoring unanimous motion to grant Canadian citizenship to jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, by Anja Karadeglija, National Post, 17 March 2021
g) Would Canadian citizenship free Saudi blogger Raif Badawi?, by Jennifer Holleis and Kersten Knipp, Deutsche Welle, 25 March 2021
8. Can I do anything after 10 April?
Please do not stop supporting Raif Badawi when the Tweet Storm on 10 April 2021 is over.
As always, if you are on Twitter or in other Social Media, please continue to raise his case and make other people aware of it. If you like the suggested tweets, just continue to use them.
Show your support and show Saudi Arabia that we will not forget Raif Badawi and will campaign for him until he is free.
I want to finish this post with a quote from my first blog post about Raif Badawi which was published on March 2015 on Raif Badawi website (which does not exist anymore) and which I republished in June 2015 on this blog. The title of my article is “Why I do care about Raif Badawi”
“I hope that we all will not relent in our support, even if it might take longer to free him than we all wish for. I hope that we all continue to protest and campaign until he is released and reunited with his family.
This is what I still hope and the fact that we all have been standing with Raif Badawi and his family for such a long time makes me hopeful that we will continue to do so until he is free at last.