Raif Badawi: Unfaltering Hope and Determination for Freedom
By Stephanie Tran – Youth Intern, Amnesty International
Over 30 000. That’s the number of cards of solidarity written for Raif Badawi with urgent calls for his freedom. Written by supporters from around the world, sentiments of solidarity came from around 20 countries altogether. Along with Ensaf Haidar, Raif Badawi’s wife, we brought 17 boxes filled with these cards to the Saudi Arabian Embassy. They refused to accept any of them.
“What does the Saudi Embassy fear by refusing them?,” asked Director General of Amnesty Canada’s Francophone Branch, Beatrice Vaugrante. “It is disappointing but it will in no way lessen our determination to campaign for Raif.”
These sentiments of perseverance were echoed by Alex Neve. “Turning away these boxes full of expressions of concern and pleas for Raif’s freedom, from women, men and children around the world, does not silence their voices,” said Neve in front of the Saudi Arabian Embassy. “We will be back with these boxes and more boxes, as more and more voices speak out and call for him to be released and reunited with his family.”
It’s this unfaltering determination and relentless hope that has inspired me in the last few months as a youth intern here at Amnesty Canada, and it was clear in our demonstration this past Monday. Marching along with Ensaf, we called for the prevention of another flogging against Badawi and for his release. When the Saudi Arabia Embassy refused to open the door to our boxes of messages, we marched straight to Parliament Hill and called on the Prime Minister to take personal action on behalf of Raif Badawi.
“Raif’s case is of global concern,” said Alex Neve, “But it very much is a case of particular Canadian concern. Raif’s wife Ensaf and their children live here now. Their neighbours, friends and schoolmates are Canadians. That is why we have looked to the Canadian government to speak out loud and clear, and for the Prime Minister himself to intervene personally.”
This march towards the Canadian Prime Minister’s Office comes with the recognition of how Raif’s freedom is also a Canadian obligation. As Vaugrante said, “Canada has rightfully accepted to protect the wife and children of a prisoner of conscience. All must be done now to reunite the family. We need Minister Trudeau to do what has been asked in vain by the previous Prime Minister: call publicly at the personal level for the release of Raif Badawi to the King of Saudi Arabia. It must be one of his priorities."
Reaching the end of our march to the Prime Minister’s Office, we delivered one box full of petitions calling for the Government of Canada to take action for Raif’s freedom. “I would like for Mr. Trudeau to work on (the file),” shared Raif’s wife, Ensaf, urging Trudeau to “talk to Saudi Arabian government officials directly and ask that Raif be released from prison. I hope soon Raif will be free with us.”
For me, the most powerful moment of the demonstration was when we continued to march forward after hearing the news of the Saudi Embassy’s rejection of our messages. Despite disappointment, we channeled our frustrations into determination. With collective chants of “Liberté pour Raif” and “Free Raif”, we relayed our message loud and clear: people around the world will continue to write, stand, shout, and march until Raif is free and with his family.