In an Atlanticarticle about the prohibition of anti-Zionist views at American Universities, this:
One letter signed by more than 130 UC faculty members supported naming anti-Zionism as an expression of anti-Semitism, saying students need guidance on “when healthy political debate crosses the line into anti-Jewish hatred, bigotry and discrimination, and when legitimate criticism of Israel devolves into denying Israel’s right to exist.”
“If you go straight for the megaphone diplomacy it is almost always counter-productive”
In September I attended the launch of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s Magna Carta Partnerships programme, a new fund that seeks to promote legal expertise and the rule of law around the world. FCO Minister Baroness Anelay was joined by current and former diplomats for a panel discussion on how good governance and robust legal institutions can strengthen the rule of law, and in so doing, also protect human rights.
The British Government is regularly criticised for its apparent support for human rights abusing regimes such as Saudi Arabia or Bahrain. So during the Q&A session I was able to ask the Minister and other panellists why our Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and officials overseas do not make more public statements on behalf of political prisoners like Raif Badawi.
Later in the show, the Saudi panellists also suggested that the campaign to free Badawi might actually be hampering the chances of his release. This is an extremely difficult thing to hear when English PEN has invested so much into campaigning on Raif Badawi’s behalf.
On Wednesday I was invited onto the BBC World Service programme ‘BBC World Have Your Say’ to discuss Raif Badawi’s PEN Pinter Prize and the issues experienced by bloggers in Saudi Arabia. Also on the show were Evelyne Abitbol, Chief Execuitve of the Free Raif Badawi Foundation and Saudi Arabian journalists Essam Al Ghalib, Eman Al Nafjan of Saudi Woman, and Abeer Mishkas.
We need to be shocked now, so we may demand action from our government now. I think that trumps our squeamishness
Before I mire myself in questions of when and whether to publish shocking images, I should—must—begin by writing about the fact of Aylan Kurdi’s drowning and the refugee crisis in general. If the central argument for publishing an image of a dead boy is that it ‘gets people discussing the issues’ then I think I have an obligation to do so, even if these thoughts have been stated earlier and more eloquently, elsewhere. Continue reading “On the ethics of publishing the photo of Aylan Kurdi”
English PEN today received formal confirmation that all charges against the Syrian journalist and writer Mazen Darwish have been dropped. He is a free man.
Darwish is the founder of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), an organisation that has fearlessly campaigned for free speech in Syria despite the appalling civil war and associated human rights abuses. Darwish, along with his colleagues Hussein Gharir and Hani Al-Zitani, were detained in 2012 and held without trial until earlier this year. Continue reading “Mazen Darwish is Free”
Today is the third anniversary of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi’s arrest, and thousands of activists around the world are demanding the reversal of his conviction on charges of blasphemy and ‘setting up a liberal website’. Many gathered at Downing Street today as a letter signed by hundreds of writers and politicians was delivered to Prime Minister David Cameron.
But the Royal Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in London is not amused. Last week, it issued an indignant response to the ongoing campaign for Badawi’s release.
Last week the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia hit back at those who have been voicing their dismay at the hideous and inhuman sentence handed down to liberal blogger Raif Badawi.
The Kingdom cannot believe and strongly disapproves what has been addressed in some media outlets about the case of Citizen Rai’ef Mohammed Badowi and the judicial sentence he has received.
While we regret the aggressive attacks these media have leveled against the Kingdom and its Judiciary system, the Kingdom assures at the same time that it rejects in shape and form any interference in its internal affairs.
Blaming the ‘media’ is a well worn cliché that oppressive regimes like to deploy when seeking to play down their human rights abuses. In this case, however, it’s just flat out wrong. Yes, the media have reported on the Raif Badawi case and published scathing op-eds from the likes of yrstrly. But the bulk of the outcry has been on social media, where hundreds of thousands of people are voicing their distaste for Wahhabi justice.
There is also this:
… the Kingdom unequivocally rejects any aggression under the pretext of Human Rights; after all, the constitution of the Kingdom originates from the Islamic Sharia which enshrines one’s sacred rights to life, property, honor, and dignity.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been one of the first States to promote and support human rights and has on this regard respected all international conventions congruent with the Islamic Sharia.
This is just delusional. By no stretch of the imagination can flogging someone for peaceful political speech be considered a protection of “honour and dignity” or human rights.
Earlier this month, British Prime Minister David Cameron affirmed his support for free speech in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. If he really believes that, then the British Government must urgently review its relationship with Saudi Arabia.
Do we see a glimmer of light in the dark case of Raif Badawi? King Abdullah has referred the case to the Saudi Arabian supreme court, following the international dismay at the public flogging Badawi received earlier this month.
Last week the news was grim. The imprisoned blogger might not have received his scheduled 50 lashes on Friday morning, but this was no act of clemency on the part of the Saudi authorities. The flogging was only delayed because Badawi was too ill and weak from his flogging the week before.
One-thousand lashes and a 10 year prison term would be a brutal punishment for any crime. But the fact that Badawi has received this sentence for insulting Islam and of founding a liberal website is astonishing. The world is appalled. The Charlie Hebdo murders have drawn public attention to ideas of freedom of speech and blasphemy, and the Raif Badawi case offers a chillingly convenient coda to the events in Paris. Continue reading “We can win the fight to save Raif Badawi from the horror of Saudi Arabian ‘justice’”