A brave man – flogged to death in Saudi Arabia?

A gentle, brave man is to be flogged to death – as harshly as possible, in Saudi Arabia.

See – http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/5916/raif-badawi-saudi-justice   – But not a squeak from our now arguably morally bankrupt, Key-led government? Oh wait – John Key and Murray McCully have done “a sheep deal” involving taking $11.5 million from over-taxed New Zealanders to pay what has, rightly or wrongly, been described as basically a bribe, to a very rich Saudi Arabian, Hamood Al Khalaf, who owns land in New Zealand (why, we may well ask?) and has the ear of powerful people in Saudi Arabia.

According to Dominion Post columnist Tracy Watkins, his claims “he was treated unfairly by successive New Zealand governments are believed instrumental in our failure to secure a free trade agreement with the Gulf States. John Key has even admitted as much, suggesting the sheep deal was about ‘removing one particular roadblock when it came to the FTA.’ ” But of course this wouldn’t stop any government with a commitment to respect human life, and to honouring individuals of outstanding integrity, from making a protest on behalf of a decent, extraordinarily courageous individual whose biggest misfortune is to be living in Saudi Arabia. Or would it?

I think we know the answer to this. And no wonder many New Zealanders are now ashamed to be living in a country with a once proud record of standing up to be counted – but with a government which, on the face of it, has no qualms whatever about dealing with thoroughly tyrannical, inhumane governments – including that of Communist China’s corrupt hierarchy – without making one public protest. Ever.

This Gatestone Institute article – http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/5916/raif-badawi-saudi-justice brings home to us all the marked contrast between the protests of democracies worldwide at the appalling treatment being handed out to this one man – (let alone Saudi Arabia’s shocking record of the disgraceful treatment of women deemed to transgress – (dropped into holes and stoned to death) – and anyone else who offends its appalling, cleric-dominated dominated society). And how ironic that some of the worst oppression now being deliberately targeted at those who stand up for human rights and freedom should today be coming from those who claim to be men of God – but make a travesty of this belief with their vicious treatment and apparent hatred of extraordinarily fine individuals who risk everything to call for justice for their people.

And what do we do to help? Nothing. When querying the moral dereliction of the New Zealand government on a former occasion when an innocent human life was at stake, I was fed the reply our government likes to use on occasions like this…That New Zealand does not interfere in the internal affairs of another country.

How very pious – and how very convenient an excuse to avoid making a moral or ethical stand on issues that should concern us in the name of our common humanity.

It’s just as well other countries think differently – even although they shame us. As the Gatestone Institute reports – “But of course Criticism of Saudi inhumanity went to very high levels in Europe and North America. The U.S. State Department issued a strong statement on the affair. The National Assembly of Quebec passed a unanimous motion in condemnation. Britain’s Prince Charles, long familiar with the Saudi kingdom, raised the issue with the new King Salman. On March 3, 2015, sixty-seven members of the U.S. Congress sent a bipartisan letter to King Salman, calling for the release of all prisoners of conscience, including Badawi and Abu’l-Khayr.

“The Swedish government, in protest at the conviction, went so far as to cancel an arms deal with Saudi Arabia. Seldom have the Saudis come under such a volume of international criticism as they have done over this one affair. A discreet retreat and the freeing of Badawi and Abu’l-Khayr might have paid off well for a country with a new monarch, facing terrorism on all sides, and negotiating help in its counter-terrorism efforts even from Israel.

If you check out the link to the Gatestone Institute, you’ll find more. “You may have seen the face of Raif Badawi, a young Saudi man, or a short article about him, or impressive efforts by The Independent, to bring attention to the cruel punishments inflicted on him by a series of deeply illiberal Saudi courts: 1000 lashes — “very harshly,” the flogging order read — to be administered 50 at time for 20 weeks, or five months.”

As the Gatestone Institute’s article tells us: “Raif Badawi is a 31-year old author, blogger and social activist, who gently tried to introduce just the smallest traces of enlightened thinking to the government and the religious elite of Saudi Arabia from his home in Jeddah.

“He did this mainly through a website and public forum entitled, “Free Saudi Liberals.” An example of what he is now to be flogged to death for goes: – “My commitment is… to reject any repression in the name of religion… a goal that we will reach in a peaceful and law-abiding way.”

“This has apparently been too much for these Saudi men of God…for “On January 9, 2015, Raif Badawi received the first of his planned twenty flogging sessions: 50 lashes each time, to be delivered after Friday noon prayers outside Jeddah’s al-Jafali Mosque, across the road from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Badly hurt — he is a diabetic and physically frail — he faced almost certain death long before his punishment could be brought to an end. Doctors advised delay, and for many weeks, he was not subjected to further floggings.”

“But to renewed outrage around the world, it was reported on June 7 that the Saudi Supreme Court — originally thought to herald reform in the judicial system — has confirmed Badawi’s sentence finally in all respects. The only possible reprieve now would be a royal pardon. The judgement is, in effect, a slow, bloodthirsty, agonizing, death sentence handed to a man whose only concern was to speak gently but honestly in a country so backward that it prefers the outrages and injustices of seventh-century Arabia to anything, such as mercy, in the twenty-first century — the technology of which the Saudis are all too happy to avail themselves.”

But wait. “To make matters worse, in another example of Saudi “justice,” Badawi’s lawyer, Walid Abu’l-Khayr (Waleed Abulkhair), was jailed.

“Abu’l-Khayr, from a prominent family of religious judges and clerics, had been listed in Forbes magazine as one of the top 100 Arab writers on Twitter. His wife, Samar, is Raif Badawi’s sister. Abu’l-Khayr had set up an organization named “Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia.” He was sentenced to 15 years in jail, to be followed by a 15-year travel ban.”

What of elsewhere in the world – but not, of course, in this country.

“In the meantime, an international campaign for his release started in earnest. Newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations across the West featured his story prominently. Everyone agreed that the prescribed punishments were cruel, inhuman, and degrading, and that the floggings amounted to torture, illegal under international law.”

What is happening to Raif Badawi is not unusual in Saudi Arabia, and other repressive régimes with which our government wants to do business. But there will be many New Zealanders who feel rightly ashamed that government refuses to express our own concern that these travesties of justice are occurring worldwide – while nobody represents us, and our objections.

In quite a different direction, a New Zealand man Philip Blackwood is apparently wasting away “in a stinking hot Myanmar jail” where he must remain outside with little or no shade for seven hours a day, with temperatures reaching 40°C. Arrested for posting a picture of Buddha in headphones on Facebook, in an apparently naïve, arguably ill-judged promotion of his local bar, he exists on rice and broth. Locked up late last year, he faces another two years and four months in prison with hard labour. His little baby girl was born three months..

I can’t recall any public protest from New Zealand on behalf of this New Zealander. Yet the time has long gone to remain silent in the face of continual mistreatment, oppression, torture and killing worldwide by those “offended” by views which contradict theirs.

Our very silence, and that of our New Zealand government, makes us complicit. It should also make us shamed enough to insist that our now National government publicly conveys our very strong protests against this ongoing brutality.

But it has to be up to each of us, as individuals, to tell our Prime Minister and MPs just this.

“It is the units – the single individuals – that are the power and the might. Individual effort is, after all, the grand thing.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

© Amy Brooke