No laughing matter: Souad Al-Shammary and the Saudi clergy

Saudi

By Elham Manea

She made a joke about a beard and the medieval clergy went berserk; apparently they do not have a sense of humour.

Now she is in prison charged with, and I am not making this up, ‘publicly calling for the liberation of Saudi women and the separation of religion from the government’.

Are these the accusations of a just, modern, functioning society?

Another charge was added to the list: ‘denial of holiness of clergy’. The last charge gives an indication of the type of theocratic system we are talking about.

No matter. Now she is awaiting trial just as her famous blogger friend Raif Badawi did – for apostasy. Now the same clergy, who think they are holy, will judge her.

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Reporters Without Borders award Raif Badawi the Netizen Prize for 2014

In 2012, 30-year-old Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi was arrested for starting a progressive website that called for, among other things, religious tolerance and women’s rights. That was insulting to Islam, said his critics. In May 2014 Mr. Badawi was sentenced 10 years and was also sentenced to 1,000 lashes and ordered to pay a fine of 1 million riyals ($266,000; £133,000). At present, Mr Badawi is in a cell in a Jeddah prison, six months into his ten-year jail sentence. He is awaiting the first of his floggings. The thousand lashes are due to be dealt to him in batches of fifty, every Friday, in a public square. Reporters Without Borders awards the annual Netizen Prize in recognition to an Internet user, blogger, cyber-dissident, or group who has made a notable contribution to the defense of online freedom of expression.

Raif BadawiThis is the speech of Dr. Elham Manea after receiving the prize on Raif Badawi’s behalf.
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