Those who keep track of the fate of the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, most especially his brave family, will know that this year is marked by a special kind of sad anniversary: on 17 June Raif Badawi will have completed his fifth year in prison.
Five years at the hand of a spiteful regime that does not seem to know the difference between concerns about overdue reforms and blasphemy. Five years of isolation from his beloved family, from all that might sustain his spirit during his imprisonment. And on top of all this Raif Badawi has suffered a cruel public flogging – 50 out of the inhuman total of 1000 lashes. As far as we know he has not been subjected to another flogging. But the threat, that his horrible punishment might be resumed, keeps hovering like Damocles’ sword that might fall again anytime.
All this has happened, because Raif Badawi has dared to discuss openly and considerately about how to reform his country; because he invited his fellow citizen to be citizen and to discuss publicly and peacefully about the future of their country. Amongst other subjects Raif Badawi has claimed freedom – not from religion but freedom to reason about religion and the way it is practised in his country. That alone was enough for the authorities to lash out against him in a cruelly literal sense of the word.
The horrid scene of his public flogging on January 9th 2015 – in which the only visible person that inspired respect and radiated dignity was the man who had been dragged out of prison to be tortured and degraded – cried out to heaven. And the world echoed. Politicians, newspapers, writers, Nobel laureates all over the world people declared their sympathy. Important institutions such as the European Parliament honoured and keep honouring Raif Badawi with prestigious awards.
Now, almost 2 and a half year after his ordeal of public flogging and after five years in prison, let us show official Saudi-Arabia that its citizen and his cruel plight is not forgotten. I was very glad to hear, that Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel has publicly addressed Raif Badawi’s fate and thus brought it up in the news as well. Besides I am sure, that on the diplomatic backstage there are diplomats, attorneys and others steadily at work on Raif Badawi’s behalf. Please, let me express my sincere thanks to all involved to help him. My best wishes go out to all of you. May your good work prevail and prevail soon! Still, that leaves me with the question how we “ordinary people” can let our concern about Raif Badawi’s fate be heard by those whom it does concern very much indeed. Here is my idea:
Of course we may call embassies or send mails. But let us get a little more haptic and voice our concern about Raif Badawi’s welfare by means of postcards. They are easy to get, easy to write and may be quite effective. With them we can make sure of a steady trickle of short, polite and precise messages to arrive in the mailboxes of the Saudi embassies in our countries between now and 17 June. Many embassies have (for sensible safety reasons) abolished the letter boxes – all the better. Let the cards arrive by mail. As such they will be registered on delivery.
This link will provide you with a list of Saudi Embassies all over the world with their addresses. It lists General Consulates as well. Why neglect them, once you start sending postcards? And there is King Salman himself, whom we can address in this way. The proper address would be:
King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques
Office of His Majesty the King
Royal Court, Riyadh, Saudi-Arabia
A possible text for a postcard to King Salman may be the following:
with great concern I follow the fate of Mr. Raif Badawi. In June it is five years that he has been imprisoned. During that time Mr. Badawi has undergone severe hardships and a cruel punishment. Your Majesty, I beg you respectfully: Please grant him mercy and release him to share his family’s exile in Canada.
Yours sincerely XY
To the ambassadors the text may be
with great concern I follow the fate of Mr. Raif Badawi. In June it is five years that he has been imprisoned. During that time Mr. Badawi has undergone severe hardships and a cruel punishment. I beg your country respectfully to grant him mercy and to release him to share his family’s exile in Canada.
Yours sincerely XY
It is still several weeks to go till 17 June, but the post may take some time. Let us be ready and let us make ourselves be seen and read. There’s always a way to help and often is quite undramatic. But if we all contribute such a postcard together we may send a noteable and visible sign of sympathy and concern that cannot be overlooked.