I remember well that Thursday evening in January. It was just an ordinary evening like all the others. The train was packed with people, many of them were reading the free newspaper Blick am Abend. I don’t like the level of that newspaper very much but this time I was really caught by an article, only a small one. I don’t remember much of it anymore. But it was back then when I learned that a certain Raif Badawi is in prison in Saudi Arabia and should be flogged the following day just because he dared to express peacefully his opinion. The author, whose name I don’t know anymore, described this flogging as a “death penalty on instalments”, so I already saw him dying before my eyes. For the rest of the journey I couldn’t concentrate on anything else and even on the way home from the train station I was only speaking about Raif Badawi. It was in this moment when I sang for the first time the Finale of Les Misérables. And back then I meant it in its original meaning. That even if you suffered a lot in your life and eventually died, you might still have a better life in the Garden of the Lord.
Later I realized given he was still alive, what he is still today, I should get involved for his release. Why was it exactly him who caused me to get involved? Actually I can’t say it with a hundred percent certainty, it was just my heart who chose it to be like that. I just couldn’t stay indifferent. Probably it is because of that corporal punishment. Before reading about Raif’s case I hadn’t even known that there are countries who still speak out such punishments. We often hear about torture of innocent people, which prisoners of conscience are, but normally such mistreatment happens behind thick prison walls. What is even more appalling in this case is that it happens as part of the legislation of that country and is executed publically. Therefore after that day I could do nothing else than do everything that is in my power to help to save Raif Badawi.
Another day of these three months which I remember well is the day when I went the first time to a vigil in Bern, I had a really strong positive feeling. I realized that I am not alone fighting for this cause, that there are others who share the same ideals and I felt deeply connected to them although I had never seen them before. This gave me even more motivation to continue being involved for human rights in Saudi Arabia. I signed up for Twitter and I am raising awareness among all the people I know.
In these ten weeks or so I got to know many impressive people, above all those who we are standing with, Raif Badawi and Waleed Abulkhair, as well as their families, as well as amazing people from all over the world. Most of them I have never met personally, not even the two most important ones, those we are actually involved for. But nevertheless there is something that connects us all which is difficult to be described. Maybe something like the hope for a better world, in a time in which one reads about terror, war, death in the news all the time. In such a time where you think hatred and other negative feelings would prevail (I mean the very reason why we are doing this all is because of hate and incomprehension towards different attitudes which even ends up in violence) I have witnessed so many positive feelings, so much love towards other people. Those feelings gave me so much positive energy which helped me even through the difficult situation where I thought I might lose hope because I realized that maybe what we all are doing still might not be enough to save Raif, that maybe he will die all the same. But I didn’t give up, I can’t stay silent anymore when injustice happens. And I know Raif needs us now more than ever. We shall continue to speak up for him, because if we don’t we just do what those in power in Saudi Arabia want us to do: to forget about Raif and go back to our daily concerns. But this is not the case. Not for me at least.
Because all this has given a new sense to my life. Speaking about human rights doesn’t not mean anymore that I am simply talking about what the characters in the story I am writing would do in communist Czechoslovakia. It has become something real, it’s not just fiction anymore. I believe that we all together can make a difference here when we speak up for human rights. Even if they are a matter of course for us here, especially our generation. We should be grateful to have the opportunity to be able to express our opinion freely. And we should use this opportunity not only to comment the dresses which some celebrities wear, we should speak up for those who don’t speak up, those who are prevented from doing so and those who don’t dare to express their opinion. We should raise awareness about cases like Raif’s one. We should share the ideas of thinkers like Raif who are too far ahead for the environment they live in. Because like that we make sure that the main intention of the system which is repressing them is not fulfilled, which is to silence them. During these weeks I have realized that I would like to make my contribution to this as well. Because I believe that there is a flame that never dies, that even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise. That is what the song says that I sang on that first evening. Why don’t make it possible also for the life on earth?