Every day in the war zones there are hundreds of people dying. Many others each day are tortured, mistreated or are behind bars because they have insisted on their right of freedom of expression. Why should we, considering this situation, concentrate exactly on Raif Badawi? Aren’t there more important things on this world which should be resolved?
For weeks I’ve occupied myself with Raif Badawi’s case and try now to find answers to these questions.
In the past weeks I’ve been told several times that the question arises why one tries to achieve the release of a single man, while in Syria and elsewhere there are dozens of innocent people being killed each day and in China, North Korea and elsewhere human rights abuses are the order of the day. Although it is no longer just about the life of a single man. Raif Badawi has become the symbol for freedom of expression. After all he has only criticized the system he lives in. He did that in a peaceful and non-violent ways as he founded a discussion forum on the internet. The reaction of the Saudi judiciary turned out all the harder, which through this has become the symbol of arbitrariness.
Raif Badawi’s case has opened the eyes of many people in the West. Not all of them were aware that the strategic ally of the USA and the West is a dictatorship which doesn’t allow any criticism of the system, no demands for more democratization and even less any different interpretation of Islam than its own. Some people I have talked with thought that Saudi Arabia has a similar legal system than the states in Europe. In reality in this country reigns one of the strictest applications of Islamic law. Methods of punishment such as beheading or flogging are the order of the day. In this connection Raif Badawis case has indeed had some effect. Thanks to the attention dedicated to his fate the Western public has learned about the general human rights situation in Saudi Arabia. We should not forget that Raif Badawi is far not the only one. Some organizations speak about thousands of political prisoners only in Saudi Arabia. But how should we stand up for someone of whom we don’t know even the name? There always need to be cases which stand symbolically for the other ones as well. That was the same about Nelson Mandela in South Africa and also Václav Havel stood for many others in Czechoslovakia. They too were not the only ones. In this case it is Raif Badawi who is given this part.
To criticize the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia doesn’t mean that we agree about all procedures at home. The right to freedom of expression does for example not mean that one can insult his environment at one’s discretion. But that is a completely different story again. To advocate for a release of Raif Badawi and other prisoners of conscience in Saudi Arabia is neither based on hate towards Islam or other religions. Who treats his critics in such a way, inevitably causes resistance, as this methods of punishment evoke memories of past times which we in Europe left behind a long time ago. Even more horrible is that elsewhere they are still the order of the day. That doesn’t have to do much with Islam as such, that would be the same in any other case as well. No religion, no ideology and no other reason justifies such human rights abuses. Everyone should be allowed to believe in whatever he wants to as long as he doesn’t do violence to anyone else.
Another argument, which is also often used by politicians who advise against an intervention in the case of Raif Badawi, is that in a time in which there are so many conflicts in Middle East we should keep Saudi Arabia as a strategic ally as it is a comparatively stable country and the case of Raif Badawi is a too small disruptive factor to risk the good relations. In my opinion one should no longer look away when it comes to human rights abuses in Arabic countries. That would not be the first time in history when one looked away for too long. It doesn’t concern Raif Badawi alone, but thousands of other prisoners of conscience in Saudi Arabia as well as in the neighboring countries. And then there are the women who are suppressed mercilessly in Saudi Arabia. Should we really continue to ignore this and happily proceed in exporting arms in these countries? One should also not forget that this important strategic ally in the struggle against terrorism ideologically seen has something in common with the Islamic State. And the new laws, whose original purpose is to prevent crimes related to terrorism, are used primarily used to silence critics of the regime.
From the above mentioned can be concluded that it will be important also in the future to stand up for Raif Badawi, as this Saudi Arabian blogger stands for much more than his personal fate. He stands for freedom of speech and for many other unjustly persecuted people in this world. Who just watches any longer, how injustice happens in Saudi Arabia reduces himself to an accomplice of said regime. To get involved for Raif Badawi does mean though to stand up for said persecuted people all over the world just the same. To save all the people of this world who are in danger is virtually impossible. One has to start somewhere. And Raif Badawi’s case is a good initial point.
You find the original text in German here: