Little, Brown and English PEN hold vigil for imprisoned Saudi blogger

Little, Brown and English PEN hold vigil for imprisoned Saudi blogger

Little, Brown Book Group and English PEN are holding a special vigil for imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi, building on the efforts of his wife who today published a book with the publisher (16th March).

The vigil for the Saudi blogger, who was resentenced in 2013 to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison, will take place outside the Saudi Embassy in London on 23rd March. Its aim is to show support for Badawi as well as his lawyer Waleed Abulkhair, who is currently serving 15 years for his human rights activism. 

Badawi's wife, Ensaf Haidar, is campaigning for her husband's release from exile in Canada, where the couple's three children also have had asylum since 2013. Her book Raif Badawi: The Voice of Freedom, co-authored with Andrea C. Hoffmann and translated by Shaun Whiteside, is her account of her marriage to Badawi, the survival of love against the odds and the fight for her husband’s freedom.

Jo Glanville, director for English PEN, told The Bookseller: "Ensaf Haidar has been a tireless advocate for her husband, becoming one of the most visible and widely recognised defenders of human rights in the world. The publication of her book will help Raif Badawi's story reach a new audience and bring greater pressure on democracies to call for his release and perhaps even question their own relationship with the Saudi regime. Raif is serving a prison sentence for doing no more than expressing his opinion, the publication of Ensaf's book is great proof that censorship never works."

English PEN has been holding regular vigils outside the Saudi Embassy in London in support of Badawi and Abulkhair since January 2015, when Badawi was first flogged for peaceful activism. He was first arrested in 2012, on charges of insulting Islam and apostacy. 

For his "liberal aims", however, he has since been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and was awarded the PEN Pinter Prize for an International Writer of Courage 2015 from English PEN last year.

Poet James Fenton, who accepted the award on Badawi's behalf in October, said at the time: “What moved me was the contrast between the simplicity of Badawi’s liberal aims –their modesty, almost – and the ferocity of the punishments they have brought down on him. Imprisonment, astonishing fines, corporal punishment designed to break either the spirit or the body first and to act as a chill warning to others. It is a world of inconceivable cruelty, but intimately linked to ours by business, strategic interests, military and diplomatic ties. For our part, then, protest has a purpose and – who knows? – perhaps even a chance of some sort of success.”

Activists are meeting on 23rd March at the Curzon Street entrance to the Embassy, with the vigil planned between 1pm and 2pm.