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BY LEONARDO BLAIR , CP REPORTER
Conservative Princeton University professor and vice chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Robert P. George, along with six other advocates, have offered to take 100 lashes each for Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes for insulting his country’s clerics.
Badawi, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes got his first 50 lashes by cane in a public square just over a week ago. A news release from Amnesty International explained that a second round of flogging for the blogger was postponed last Friday because his wounds from the first flogging hadn’t healed.
“Not only does this postponement on health grounds expose the utter brutality of this punishment, it underlines its outrageous inhumanity. The notion that Raif Badawi must be allowed to heal so that he can suffer this cruel punishment again and again is macabre and outrageous. Flogging should not be carried out under any circumstances,” said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa Program in the release.
In an email to The Christian Post Wednesday, Professor George confirmed that he and other advocates have offered to take the lashes for Badawi.
“Together with six colleagues on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, I sent a letter to the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. calling on the Saudi government to stop the horrific torture of Raif Badawi — an advocate of religious freedom and freedom of expression in the Saudi Kingdom,” wrote George.
“If the Saudi government refuses, we each asked to take 100 of Mr. Badawi’s lashes so that we could suffer with him. The seven of us include Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, Christians, Jews, and a Muslim,” he added.
Offering to take Badawi’s lashes along with George are: Mary Ann Glendon, member of the Board, Becket Fund for Religious Liberty; M. Zuhdi Jasser, president, American Islamic Forum for Democracy; Daniel Mark assistant professor, Department of Political Science, Villanova University; Hannah Rosenthal, CEO, Milwaukee Jewish Federation; Eric Schwartz, dean, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota and Katrina Lantos Swett, president of Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice.
“Compassion, a virtue honored in Islam as well as in Christianity, Judaism, and other faiths, is defined as ‘suffering with another.’ We are persons of different faiths, yet we are united in a sense of obligation to condemn and resist injustice and to suffer with its victims, if need be. We therefore make the following request. If your government will not remit the punishment of Raif Badawi, we respectfully ask that you permit each of us to take 100 of the lashes that would be given to him. We would rather share in his victimization than stand by and watch him being cruelly tortured. If your government does not see fit to stop this from happening, we are prepared to present ourselves to receive our share of Mr. Badawi’s unjust punishment,” note the group in the letter shared with CP.
According to Amnesty International’s Boumedouha: “Flogging is prohibited under international law along with other forms of corporal punishment. His flogging appears to have been postponed for now but there is no way of knowing whether Saudi Arabia’s authorities will fully comply with the doctor’s advice. Raif Badawi is still at immediate risk.”
Raif Badawi’s daughter writes her father a heartbreaking letter days before he’s likely scheduled to be publicly flogged again for “insulting” Islam and defending the right to free speech. If you’re against torture and believe in free speech, please share Raif Badawi’s story with your family and friends and encourage them to share with their family and friends and so on and so on. Together, we can win Raif’s freedom. #FreeRaif
By AYA BATRAWY Associated Press
A Saudi blogger convicted of insulting Islam was brought after Friday prayers to a public square in the port city of Jiddah and flogged 50 times before hundreds of spectators, a witness to the lashing said.
The witness said Raif Badawi’s feet and hands were shackled during the flogging but his face was visible. He remained silent and did not cry out, said the witness, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity fearing government reprisal.
Badawi was sentenced last May to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes. He had criticized Saudi Arabia’s powerful clerics on a liberal blog he founded. The blog has since been shut down. He was also ordered to pay a fine of 1 million riyals or about $266,600.
Rights activists say Saudi authorities are using Badawi’s case as a warning to others who think to criticize the kingdom’s powerful religious establishment from which the ruling family partly derives its authority.
London-based Amnesty International said he would receive 50 lashes once a week for 20 weeks. Saudi Arabia’s close ally, the United States, had called on authorities to cancel the punishment.
Despite international pleas for his release, Badawi, a father of three, was brought from prison by bus to the public square on Friday and flogged on the back in front of a crowd that had just finished midday prayers at a nearby mosque. His face was visible and, throughout the flogging, he clenched his eyes and remained silent, said the witness.
The witness, who also has close knowledge of the case, said the lashing lasted about 15 minutes.
Badawi has been held since mid-2012 after he founded the Free Saudi Liberals blog. He used the blog to criticize the kingdom’s influential clerics who follow a strict and ultraconservative interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism, which originated in Saudi Arabia.
He was originally sentenced in 2013 to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in relation to the charges, but after an appeal, the judge stiffened the punishment. Following his arrest, his wife and children left the kingdom for Canada.
Rights groups argue that the case against Badawi is part of a wider crackdown on freedom of speech and dissent in Saudi Arabia since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. Criticism of clerics is seen as a red line because of their prestige in the kingdom, as well as their influential role in supporting government policies.
According to Amnesty, the charges against Badawi mention his failure to remove articles by other people on his website. He was also accused in court of ridiculing Saudi Arabia’s morality police.
In a statement after the flogging, Amnesty called the flogging a “vicious act of cruelty” and said that Badawi’s “only ‘crime’ was to exercise his right to freedom of expression by setting up a website for public discussion.”
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki has called the punishment an “inhumane” response to someone exercising his right to freedom of expression and religion.
In New York, Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, told reporters on Friday that the U.N. human rights office was “very concerned about the flogging” and that it has previously raised concerns about harsh sentences in Saudi Arabia for human rights defenders.
THEY post ads online luring people with the promise of sex and a bit of fun, but pleasure is the last thing they want to dish out.
Members of these groups, who go by the names of Occupy Paedophilia and Parents of Russia, have one thing on their mind – punishment and ultimately humiliation of anyone who is gay, lesbian or transgender.
Anti-LGBT activists say their treatment is justified because it helps prevent paedophilia and preserve Russia’s family rights.
In footage to be aired on British TV broadcaster Channel 4 this week, the brutal way anti-LGBT activists deliberately attack gay people is exposed.
In the documentary Hunted investigative journalist Liz Mackean travels to Russia to interview members of these groups.
She uncovers gay people who live in fear of their safety after several attacks on gay people across Russia.
One man can be heard saying: “A hunting season has opened, and we are the hunted”. Another says gays should be hanged and burned and “this is Russia, they need to get used to it”.
“We filmed these groups with their knowledge, and what I found shocking afterwards was that only a few asked to have their faces disguised. They all believe they are doing the right thing,” Ms Mackean told The Guardian .
“Occupy Paedophilia has groups in more than 30 cities. They operate with impunity and under the cover of the remarks [Vladimir] Putin has made suggesting that children are at risk from homosexuals.”
Gangs use the internet to lure their victims who are then subjected to violence and humiliating acts. One victim is made to dance and the footage is then uploaded to the internet.
Sadly these groups are not uncommon and this treatment is far from rare.
In September last year, the BBC revealed more shocking treatment at the hands of the ultranationalist group.
In its footage, one man is forced to drink urine and put his head in the toilet before he has a metal bucket put over his head.
He is then whacked across the head with heavy truncheon like objects and is accused of being a paedophile.
The group say they are dishing out justice and their supposed aim is to cure people of homosexuality.
In the clip posted online, a woman can be seen armed with a gun and dressed in army fatigues, joking that she’s going hunting for gay people and paedophiles.
The woman, named as Yekaterina, heads up St Petersburg’s Occupy paedophilia movement and she tells the BBC exactly what the movement is about.
“Our priority is uncovering cases of pedophilia,” she says.
“But we’re also against the promotion of homosexuality. And if – along the way – we encounter people of non-traditional sexual orientation, we can kill two birds with one stone.”
Last year, South African student David Smith found himself the target of a shocking attack by anti-gay activists after being lured to an apartment in the city of Belgorod.
In the graphic online video, Anti-LGBT activists pretended to be a 15-year-old boy looking for sex.
But when Smith got to the apartment he was met by a group of men who subjected him to a humiliating experience.
He was stripped down to his underwear, asked if he wanted to have sex with a cat and had his head smashed into a watermelon.
Russia is renowned for its intolerance of gay people and last year introduced a draconian law which allowed police to arrest tourists and foreigners whom they suspect of being gay or lesbian.
Under President Vladimir Putin’s law, police can detain suspects for up to two weeks, with their powers even being extended towards people considered “pro-gay” or distributing “gay propaganda”.
This month, Russian MPs are set to debate a bill that could see homosexual couples lose custody of their children.
If passed, the bill would meant parents risk losing custody of their children if they practise “non-traditional sexual relations” or, in Russian terms, gay sex.
SYRIAN children as young as eight have been flogged and tortured by fighters affiliated to al-Qa’ida while their relatives, held in neighboring cells, listened, according to testimonies presented by Amnesty International.
The human rights group also claims in a report published yesterday that judges and jailors in sharia courts in northern Syria wore explosive belts so that they would be ready to blow themselves up with their captives, should they be attacked. The testimonies told, among other things, of adults being given electric shocks.
Amnesty attributes the abuses to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which is affiliated to al-Qa’ida and now controls significant parts of northern Syria in its battle against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Once ISIS seized control of an area, they imposed strict sharia rules and – according to the testimonies – inflicted horrific acts of violence on locals.
The report calls on Turkey to refuse shelter to ISIS fighters and stop the flow of arms over their mutual border. It also urges the Gulf states to stop funding the group. One former prisoner interviewed by Amnesty after his release “spoke of being present in a cell with a father as (he) heard his 13-year-old son apparently being tortured but was powerless to act”.
Another witness described how a teenager, believed to be 13 years old, was flogged 40 times a day after being accused of stealing a motorcycle. Yet another witness recalls hearing the beating of another boy: “I counted 94 lashes falling on this child and then I could count no more.”
Children were not held separately from adults, and so witnessed some of the routine abuse. Typically, prisoners were forced to adopt the “scorpion” position – crouching with one hand stretched over the shoulder and handcuffed to the second hand. “In one case, a former detainee told Amnesty International he was tortured with electric shocks and beaten with a cable while suspended with only one foot touching the floor,” said the report. Others were ordered to drink diesel or up to six litres of cooking oil.
The abuses are alleged to have happened between May and November this year, and the testimonies of the 10 former detainees paint a stark picture of a group determined to cow the local population into submission. After their floggings, the detainees were released, and fled to Turkey. Most judges wore masks, as did the group’s soldiers, who sometimes snatched their victims in daylight in the suburbs of Aleppo. Some trials, including at least one for adultery, ended in a swift execution.
Part of the torture was psychological. Prisoners were told they would be killed and thrown into the Euphrates River.
“I’ll make you food for the fishes,” was a frequent threat against inmates, the report claims.