My husband, Ra'if Badawy, has been in prison in Saudi Arabia since 2012 for disrespecting Islam. At first, he was sentenced to execution for being an apostate. In May, his sentence was reduced to 10 years in prison, a fine of $100,000 and 1,000 lashes. He is to be lashed 50 times each Friday after prayers until it reaches 1,000 lashes.
Ra'if is not a criminal. He is not a murderer or a rapist. He is a blogger. That's it. His only crime is being a free voice in a country that has no tolerance nor understanding for freedom.
Saudi Arabia is leading the fight against ISIS, an organization that lashes and murders those who peacefully oppose it. Isn't it ironic, then, that Saudi Arabia does exactly the same as evidenced by its treatment of bloggers like my husband? What kind of justice is it to sentence a young man to prison and lashes whose only crime is speaking freely?
Two years have passed since Ra’if was arrested and I still face a burning emptiness and a series of insomnia-inducing questions: When is he coming back? And in what state? Am I going to hug him? Kiss him? Will I cry?
Our three children did not know what to make of the absence of their father. I finally succumbed and explained that he was banned from traveling due to a problem between him and the Saudi government. The questions of my three angels only increased and I wished I hadn’t answered in the first place.
In every interview and event, I continue to repeat my message to the Saudi government. Ra’if is not a criminal but a victim of thought police. Saudi Arabia should adhere to the international treaties concerning freedom of speech. I do not know if my words will ever be heard.
I arrived in Canada after escaping Saudi Arabia via Cairo and Beirut. We will settle here and attempt to have a normal life, but always await Ra’if’s return.
I am unable to thank every person who supported me and Ra'if. Amnesty International especially spared no effort to advocate for my husband’s release. I also must thank Ra'if, who taught me how to endure the impossible, stay strong and fight tirelessly to get him back.
Perhaps he won’t return soon, but I will get him back some day. He promised me that he would come back no matter what. Ra’if should be free, filling the world with happiness, love and his fighting spirit. Ensaf Haidar is the wife of imprisoned Saudi Arabian activist, Raif Badawi, who has been jailed for the past two years. Badawi is serving a 10-year sentence and faces 1,000 lashes and a hefty fine for establishing an online forum for public debate called "Free Saudi Liberals." Movements.org is a crowdsourcing platform created by Advancing Human Rights which connects activists from dictatorships with people around the world with skills to help them.