Free expression matters plus ISIS, Fatwas and Fast-Defying

Freedom of expression matters
30 June 2015
Interview with Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia Founder, including on Raif Badawi
Background: Freedom of expression matters. It is not a luxury, a western value and it’s not up for sale. Sometimes – actually more often than not – it is all we have to speak truth to power. In fact, free expression is a demand of those without power vis-a-vis the powers that be. It’s a cornerstone of other rights and freedoms and becomes most significant and finds real meaning when it criticises that which is taboo, forbidden and sacred.
Shocking news of the week: ISIS attacks on Kobane, Kuwait, Tunisia and France
Insane fatwa of the week: Saudi cleric says women should not look at footballers’ thighs
Good new of the week: 30 people on death row in Iran pardoned by families
Question of the week: On the veil and racism
Plus a drink in solidarity with all those being arrested and persecuted for defying fasting rules during Ramadan.
Protest Time: Urgent Action for Atena Farghadani sentenced by Islamic regime of Iran to 14 years and 9 months for a cartoon!

آزادی بیان مهم است، نان و گل سرخ با مریم نمازی و فریبرز پویا
۱ ژوئيه ۲۰۱۵
مصاحبه با جیمی ولز، بنیانگذار ویکیپدیا، از جمله درمورد رائف بدوي
اخبار تکان دهنده هفته: حملات داعش در كبانى؛ كويت؛ تونس و فرانسه
فتوای اخمقانه هفته: زنان و ران فوتبالیسها
خبر خوب: بخشش ۳۰ نفر در انتظار اعدام در ایران در يك ماه
سوال هفته : حجاب و نژادپرستی
به علاوه شراب در همبستگی با تمام کسانی که بازداشت و مورد آزار و اذیت مى شوند براى روزه خوارى
آتنا فرقدانیا وقت اعتراض:
کارگردان: رضا مرادی
ترجمه: خسرو قریب


raifActivist and blogger Raif Badawi was first arrested on 17 June 2012. Three years later he remains in prison on charges that are politically motivated. To mark the third anniversary of his arrest we are holding a Day of Action here in London.

Raif Badawi had already spent almost two years in prison before being convicted in May 2014 for ‘insulting Islam’ and founding a liberal website. He received a fine of 1 million riyals (£175,000) and a ten-year prison sentence. In addition, the court in Jeddah sentenced Badawi to 1,000 lashes.

On 9 January 2015, after morning prayers, Badawi was flogged 50 times. This punishment was due to continue every Friday until he had received a total of 1,000 lashes. However, subsequent floggings have not gone ahead, initially because Badawi was deemed not to have recovered sufficiently from the previous punishment. No explanation has been given for the postponement of further floggings. Furthermore, the Supreme Court has now announced its decision to uphold this draconian sentence.

Meanwhile, Badawi’s lawyer and brother-in-law Waleed Abulkhair, is serving 15 years in prison, for his peaceful activism.

We call for Raif Badawi’s sentence of flogging to be overturned, as well as for his conviction to be quashed.

We demand that the Saudi authorities release Raif Badawi and Waleed Abulkhair immediately.

We urge the UK government to cease providing arms to the Saudi government whilst it continues to abuse human rights.

Join us.

17 June 2015 Day of Action for Raif Badawi

From 1.30pm – Protest Letter Delivery at Downing Street:

Organisations and individuals actively campaigning for Raif Badawi’s release will be holding a rally opposite Downing Street from 1.30pm. At 2pm, comedian Kate Smurthwaite and activist Peter Tatchell will join Jo Glanville (Director, English PEN), Maryam Namazie (One Law for All and International Front for Secularism), Pete Radcliff (Free Raif UK) and Melody Patry (Index on Censorship) to deliver a letter signed by over 600 groups and individuals to the Prime Minister.

From 6.30pm – Public meeting at Portcullis House:

Representatives of campaigning organisations will come together with MPs to discuss and consider how best to secure the release of Raif Badawi and Waleed Abulkhair. Speakers include:

• Natalie Bennett, Leader, Green Party
• Ann Feltham, Parliamentary Co-ordinator, Campaign Against Arms Trade
• Jo Glanville, Director, English PEN
• Stewart McDonald, Scottish National Party
• John McDonnell, Labour Party, Hayes and Harlington
• Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, One Law for All
• Peter Tatchell, Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation

The meeting will take place in the Boothroyd Room on the first floor of Portcullis House. The entrance to Portcullis House is on the Victoria Embankment. Please be aware that there will be standard security searches as with many other government buildings.

Social Media Protest

We’re also asking people across the world to join the Day of Action on social media, by lobbying the Saudi authorities and sending messages of support to Raif and his family. Join the call for Raif Badawi and Waleed Abulkhair’s immediate release using the hashtags #FreeRaif and #FreeWaleed

Please consider pledging a tweet or Facebook message to our Thunderclap for Raif Badawi. The message will be sent en masse as part of the Day of Action.

You may also wish to include the following Twitter handles:

Raif Badawi – @raif_badawi
Ensaf Haider – @miss9afi
Waleed Abulkhair – @WaleedAbulkhair

For more information on the campaign and to get involved, visit website.


17 June: day of action to Free Raif Badawi and Waleed Abu Al-Khair

A statement will be delivered to UK Prime Minister at Downing Street on Wednesday, 17th June – the 3rd anniversary of Raif Badawi’s imprisonment.

We will then be having a public meeting at Parliament at 6:30pm with speakers and representatives of supporting campaigns as well as experts on Saudi Arabia to consider how we take the campaign forward.

Please join @johnmcdonnellMP Glenys Kinnock @FitzMP @Cruella1 @PeterTatchell @MaryamNamazie Jun 17 Action on Saudi ‪#‎FreeRaif‬

More information available here.

Happy Nowrooz

Watch this week’s Bread and Roses TV programme with Maryam Namazie and Fariborz Pooya:

Happy Nowrooz!

Celebrating Nowruz and remembering the highlights of the past year with Chris Moos, Gita Sahgal, Imad Iddine Habib, Mersedeh Ghaedi, Pragna Patel and Sirvan Ghaderi
17 March 2015
Shocking News: Quran teacher in Turkey telling children who don’t wear hejab, they deserve to be raped
Insane Fatwa: Khamenei and his criticism of existing policy on contraception, describing it as an imitation of western lifestyle turning Iranian women into baby-making machines
Good News: Sweden tore up arms deal with Saudi Arabia due to human rights situation and Raif Badawi’s case
Background Briefing: The Persian New Year called Norooz marks the first day of spring. It is partly rooted in the Zoroastrian tradition, but is an ancient holiday that was celebrated thousands of years ago. When the Islamic regime of Iran first took power, it tried to ban the pagan celebration but couldn’t stop the celebrations. The advent of another year is a good time to reflect on the past and renew hopes for a future that will see positive changes in Iran beginning with an end to the Islamic regime and its brutality.

نوروزتان مبارک
۱۸ مارس ۲۰۱۵
ياد بهترينهاى سال با کريس موس؛ گيتا ساهگل؛ عماد الدين حبيب٬ مرسده قائدى؛ پراگنا پاتل و سيروان قادرى
اخبار تکان دهنده از معلم قران در ترکيه است که به شاگردهاى ۱۳ ساله گفته بود حقشان است تجاوز بشوند چون حجاب نمى پوشند
فتواى احمقانه از خامنه اى در مورد وسايل بيشگيرى
اخبار خوب از سوئد و لغو قراردادهاى اسلحه به خاطر وضعيت حقوق بشر
در مورد تم برنامه
جشن باستانى نوروز٬ پيام آور بهار و سال نو ميباشد؛ ساليان درازى است که مردم اين روز را فرخنده ميدارند؛ مرتجعىن اسلامى از همان روز نخست به قدرت در ايران تلاش ناموفقى را براى منع کردن اين جشن غير اسلامى آغاز کردند. اما تا کنون با شکست روبرو شده اند
آغاز سال نوىن زمان مناسبى براى تامل در مورد سال گذشته و نوين کردن اميد و آرزو براى آينده ميباشد
پايان حکومت اسلامي اولين قدم مثبت را براى آينده اى ايران به ارمغان مياورد

Call for political action to Free Raif Badawi and Waleed Abu Al-Khair

cropped-raifbadawiThis call will be sent to the UK Prime Minister and the leaders of other political parties as an Open Letter at 5pm on Tuesday, 10th March. Please continue to add your name after that time. Further action will be necessary. Sign on to the letter here.

Dear Sir/ Madam

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi is currently imprisoned in a Saudi Arabian jail having received the first 50 of a threatened 1,000 lashes. If Raif survives these floggings he faces another 10 years in jail. His ‘crime’ was to have set up a website that called for peaceful change of the Saudi regime away from the repressive and religiously exclusive regime that it is.

In another shameful act his lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair, and other human rights activists were also later arrested. On February 20th this year Waleed had his sentence confirmed as 15 years in prison.

The European Parliament in its resolution of Feb 12th made clear its demands on Saudi Arabia to release Raif, as well as his lawyer Waleed and others imprisoned there for exercising their freedom of speech.

But to free Raif from this nightmare needs more than politicians saying that they disapprove of his punishment.

The total EU trade with the Saudi regime is currently close to €64 billion a year. The UK alone has approaching £12 billion invested in Saudi Arabia whilst it continues to invite Saudi investment in the UK, particularly in the property market. Saudi investment in the UK is currently over £62.5 billion. [Read more…]

Stop executing “apostates” and “blasphemers” and release them now!

Press Release of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain reproduced below:

On 22 February 2015, a Saudi court sentenced a man in his twenties to death by beheading for apostasy.  The identity of the man has not been made public but, according to Al-Shabaka, he was arrested last year and is charged with becoming an atheist and insulting Muhammad, Islam’s prophet, on social media.

This heinous ruling comes against the backdrop of the recent attacks on freedom of expression in Paris and Copenhagen.  Whilst the Saudi government hypocritically condemned the Paris massacre as a “cowardly terrorist attack that was rejected by the true Islamic religion”, it condemned a man to death for similar “crimes” only a matter of weeks later. This ruling follows the recent case of Raif Badawi, a blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years’ imprisonment for a website promoting public discussion of religion and politics which has been deemed “insulting to Islam”.

Apostasy and blasphemy are punishable with death in Saudi Arabia and also in a number of other countries, including Iran and Mauritania.

In Iran, 30 year old blogger Soheil Arabi, has been sentenced to execution for “insulting the prophet” on Facebook.

In December 2014, a 28 year old Mauritanian journalist Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir was sentenced to death for “insulting the prophet”.

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain is outraged at these death sentences. “Apostates” and “blasphemers” have not committed any crime and should be immediately released. The real crime is imprisoning and executing people for their beliefs and expression.

Clearly, there is no place in the 21st century for such medieval laws. Apostasy and blasphemy laws must end. And they must end now.

To demand the release of the unnamed atheist facing execution, please contact the Saudi embassy in your country of residence or Tweet @SaudiEmbassyUK.

Sign the petition in support of Raif Badawi here.

Join Facebook page to defend Sohail Arabi here or tweet @khamenei_ir.

Sign a petition in support of Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir here.

For more information, contact:
BM Box 1919, London WC1N 3XX, UK
tel: +44 (0) 7719166731

A defence of Charlie Hebdo must also turn into defence of other blasphemers and apostates

FRENCH: Toute défense de Charlie Hebdo doit également devenir celle d’autres blasphémateurs et apostats


Those of us who have openly criticised Islam and Islamism have faced many a threat and intimidation from the far-Right Islamist movement.

I have had phone calls saying I will be decapitated to recorded messages from the Islamic regime of Iran saying my time is near (yes, they have so many threats to make, they need to use recordings!). I’ve been called every derogatory and threatening term you can imagine from kafir, murtad, munafiq to fitnah and janazie (corpse)…

I don’t think there are many atheist, ex-Muslim or secular activists (including Muslims) like myself who have spoken up publicly and not faced some form of threat or intimidation.

So for us, Charlie Hebdo’s refusal to back down when so many have has meant a great deal over these years. Also, though, in addition to the rage one feels at any such tragedy, the massacre is personal for us.

It could really have been any of us. We are truly all Charlie Hebdo.

With the focus now on Charlie Hebdo and the crucial need and right to criticise Islam and religion, though, let us not forget the many across the globe who face execution or imprisonment for “insulting the prophet” and criticising Islam. Below you will find some examples which include Muslims, believers and atheists; the charges aim not to protect “Muslim sensibilities” as we so often hear in the west but to protect the status quo and the political power of Islamists.

A defence of Charlie Hebdo must also be turned into a defence of the many who refuse and resist.

Most urgent is the case of Raif Badawi who tomorrow on 9 January 2015 faces his flogging sentence. Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for “insulting Islam” in Saudi Arabia. he is to receive the first 50 torturous lashes tomorrow after Friday prayers.

Columnist Fatma Naoot, accused of insulting Islam, will stand trial on Jan. 28 in Egypt on allegations she criticised Islamic animal sacrifices. [Read more…]

Insult to humanity

I have written about Raif Badawi, the wonderful Saudi blogger and website editor calling for religious liberalisation who was recently sentenced to 7 years in prison and given 600 lashes (600!) for “insulting Islam”.

His wife and three children have been forced to flee the country. Here’s what she says:

What’s important now is that his family be immediately resettled in a safe third country in order to ensure their safety. The Saudi government has threatened to effectively kidnap the children and take them back to Saudi Arabia via various means so time is of the essence.

Of course it goes without saying that Raif’s imprisonment and flogging sentence is an “insult” to humanity. The despicable Saudi regime should feel our outrage whilst Raif’s family should feel our support and solidarity…

On Raif Badawi: When is it going to end?

raif badawi-cbsnews-comI reported on Raif Badawi before here.

The founder of a website calling for religious liberalisation has been sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes. How does someone survive 600 lashes? Since they couldn’t execute him for apostasy as was initially planned, they hope to kill him with 600 lashes (150 at a time).

His lawyer said that Raif, a father of three, had confirmed that he was a Muslim but told the judge “everyone has a choice to believe or not believe.”

Indeed they do, but not yet under Sharia and Islamism in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iraq…

When is it going to end? It has to soon.

It’ll be a good day when innocents like Raif walk free and the rulers of Saudi, Iran and elsewhere are in jail where they belong.

Raif must be freed. No ifs and buts.


As an aside Muslims for Progressive Values has issued a statement in his defence here. (Thanks to Chris Roche for the link.) There shouldn’t be one person – Muslim or not – who doesn’t denounce this sentence and demand that Raid be released.