We know how Saudi Arabia treats atheists and any other religious minority, but apparently you can be thrown in jail for defending them in court as well. Raif Badawi’s attorney, Saudi human rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair, has been arrested for “breaking allegiance to and disobeying the ruler.” He wrote about his impending arrest before it happened:
Writing while waiting to go to prison is like bidding your loved ones farewell before you leave on an arduous, faraway and risky mission. You don’t know whether you will make it back, or if you will ever see them again!
I write these words while awaiting the moment when the police call and summon me to serve a prison term of three months. But my imprisonment might drag on for years, pending the outcome of another case before the court on more serious political charges.
As I’m writing these words, ideas crowd each other out, leaving but a frail trace of sharp, direct and candid words. These are the words that came across my mind seven years ago – when I first embarked on the journey of my rights-based work…
And I wonder whether or not I am ready for what is coming. At this moment in particular, I do recall my reasons and that life has a goal; I do remember that those who lived to achieve noble high goals have been more capable of confronting difficulties and overcoming them. I do recall that once I lose these reasons, I would die; at best, I am on the path to degradation. In Saudi Arabia, we live a special challenge – the challenge to be free and to own yourself, your inner being, as well as to be a human rights defender in the face of a political power that employs all of its resources and capacity to dominate the judiciary so as to send you to jail and silence your voice. That challenge is not the only one, however. There is yet a greater societal challenge, as we bear the brunt of extremism and stagnation – which the political authorities wish to perpetuate, to bolster their own legitimacy. The authorities combat these issues, yet at the same time seek to keep them alive in order to foster the inner feeling that the society will always need them. They hope to demonstrate that the world has no intention of pressuring them as long as they are busy combating extremism as they claim, while providing oil to superpowers.
Thus, the nation is reduced to materialism that is void of meaning. As long as the oil keeps flowing, the world will turn a blind eye if Saudi Arabia continues to crack down on freedom and human rights.
Indeed, and sadly so. This is yet another reason why moving to a next-generation energy economy is so vital.