A scorching emptiness

A heart-rending piece by Ensaf Haidar, wife of Raif Badawi, who is still in a Saudi prison for the “crime” of setting up an atheist website.

I still pursue that mirage… two years have passed and I am still faced with a scorching emptiness and a series of agonizing questions.

When will he be back, and in what condition? What will I put on, and how will I react? Should I hug him, kiss him, or should I cry?

I wake up to the torture inflicted upon me by our children’s questions, like: “Mom, will we be leaving tomorrow without Dad, to fly from Beirut to Canada? Will I be afraid of flying? Dad used to help me overcome my fear.”

That’s our ally, Saudi Arabia.

First thing one recent morning, a telephone call from one of Raif’s friends woke me up. He had attended Raif’s trial back in Riyadh on 7 May 2014, and without further ado he said – in a coarse, sad voice – that they had increased Raif’s original sentence of seven years and 600 lashes. I hung up the phone and was overcome with anxiety and stress before bursting into tears! I pulled myself together and recalled that Raif had promised me that he will come back – I do not know when, but he promised me he will!

Every opportunity I get, I always reiterate the same message to the Saudi government. They know very well that Raif is no criminal; instead, he is a prisoner of conscience. The authorities have to abide by the international treaties that provide for the freedom of expression. I wonder whether or not they will ever heed my words.

Saudi Arabia.


  1. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    Ensaf Haidar may face more difficulties. She may be forced to divorce her husband for his atheism, face trial for being married to an atheist and not divorcing him or be considered an atheist herself and face trial for that. Those are the alternatives under muslim law.
    In either of the two latter cases she would probably be considered an unfit mother and her children removed from her care.

  2. anbheal says

    I just read a fantastic book, Dead Man In Deptford, Anthony Burgess’s last work, about the demise of the superb playwright Kit Marlowe. The Elizabethan authorities didn’t persecute his atheism as such, or as a formerly Catholic nation might have, but as treason. For as soon as Henry VIII had assumed the role as Head Of The Church Of England, then to deny the tenets of the Church was to deny his sovereignty. Hence, treason. So here’s what I’m getting at– in Saudi Arabia, where the king is the leader of the faithful, they could conflate atheism with treason, for non-belief would be a rejection of the state itself, as in Marlowe’s case. But in Pakistan, and most of the other non-emirate republics, there is no such dodging available. If they are not beholden to some grand vizier or sultan — a divine lawgiver, in other words — in Baghdad or Istanbul or Cordoba, as part of a greater Islamic empire, then allowing non-belief to be so criminalized elevates any given imam, and certainly all judges, higher than the President and Legislature.

    Machiavelli would never countenance it. He’d be counselling Hussain to throw the judge or imam who decreed the sentence into irons.

    Then again, logic — even of the Evil Statesman sort — doesn’t seem to enter into these equations very often.

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