WASHINGTON — The wife of a blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes for his posts calling for reform in Saudi Arabia told BuzzFeed News that his sentence is like "an ongoing nightmare."
Raif Badawi was first detained for maintaining a blog called Free Saudi Liberals, a forum for debate and discussion in Saudi Arabia, back in 2012. He was sentenced to face seven years in prison and 600 lashes; a retrial increased his punishment to 10 years behind bars and 1,000 lashes.
Following his arrest, his wife, Ensaf Haidar, fled the country with their three children, applying for asylum status through the United Nations. Canada was the first country to answer the call, with the family settling in Sherbrook, Quebec three months after her application.
The first set of 50 lashes against Badawi was administered in January. Following the injuries he received during his flogging, his punishment was delayed indefinitely, with no set date for their resumption. Haidar, speaking to BuzzFeed News in the DC offices of Amnesty International, said through a translator provided by Amnesty that she had no idea if or when Badawi's sentence would resume.
"He met with a medical doctors two times" following the first flogging, she said. "After that, they decided to put a committee of doctors to meet him and sit down and determine if he can be flogged again."
Haidar said she wasn't 100% sure whether the Saudi government would listen to those doctors' recommendations should they decide to restart the punishment. For now, Haidar is managing a new foundation she established and named for her husband, dedicated to lobbying for jailed journalists the world over. It's lobbying that brought her to the United States, meeting with policymakers to discuss Badawi's case. After meeting with lawmakers' offices on Wednesday, she is scheduled to meet with the State Department on Friday.
"I have never been hopeless," Haidar said when asked about whether she believed Badawi would be forced to serve his full sentence. "He is a very peaceful blogger and he spoke in a very civilized and peaceful way. So I'm quite hopeful that he's going to be released very soon."
When he is freed, the two won't be reuniting in Saudi Arabia if they can help it, she said. Instead, she said, the Quebecois government is eager to have Badawi join his family, pending approval from the Canadian federal government.