By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST Ministries and the ASSIST News Service
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND (ANS — July 5, 2015) — The Glasgow based human rights organization, Global Minorities Alliance (GMA), has called on the Scottish Government for immediate intervention for the release of the imprisoned Saudi blogger, Raif Badawi.
Mr. Badawi has become an icon for the human right to freedom of expression after being imprisoned for posting his views on Islam on the website “Free Saudi Liberals”. The 31-year-old blogger was sentenced by Saudi authorities in May 2014 to 1,000 lashes, 10 years in prison and a major fine.
Last week Mr. Badawi was awarded with first Deutsche Welle Freedom of Speech award, among host of other awards conferred upon him from the world over.
A vigil in support of Mr. Badawi’s release was held by local human rights activists which was also attended by Anne McLaughlin MP, members Global Minorities Alliance, Amnesty International, the Scottish Secular Society as well as members of the wider public in Glasgow’s busy Buchanan Street at noon on Saturday, July 4 2015.
According to a news release, Anne McLaughlin, MP for Glasgow North East and SNP Spokesperson in Westminster for Civil Liberties supported the vigil and termed Mr. Badawi’s lashing as “torture” since the thousand lashes are to be carried out in 20 sets of 50 lashes to let wounds heal in between. She further expressed her concern over the lack of pressure towards the Saudi treatment of Mr. Badawi and his supporters.
Global Minorities Alliance urged both International and local human rights organizations, activists and civil society to force a more robust response and to increase Saudi Government pressure to not only to halt the lashing, but to release Raif Badawi.
Encouraging the attendees of the vigil to uphold any effort to free Mr. Badawi, Global Minorities Alliance (GMA) vice-chairperson Shahid Khan said: “We believe that every human being has a fundamental right to express their opinion which is also enshrined in the United Nations Article 18. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion’ and stressed that Saudi Arabia being a key member of United Nations must honor its UN treaties.”
“We as GMA defend the right of all persecuted and oppressed communities around the world and stand in solidarity with Raif Badawi and his family and all those voices around the world who have been advocating the freedom of Raif which has been denied to him because of his liberal [by Saudi standards] views on Islam and call for his immediate release.
“Our thoughts are with Mr. Badawi’s family that is facing this challenge with a hope in hearts and we continue to support Mr. Badawi’s courageous wife, Ensaf Haider and her children at this difficult times of their lives”, said Mr. Khan.
Elham Manea, associate Professor of Political Science at Zurich University and an ardent supporter of Raif Badawi, said in a message to Global Minorities Alliance ahead of the vigil: “Raif Badawi is a symbol – a symbol for the right to freedoms of opinion and expression. The vigil sends a message to the world that these freedoms are not and should not be circumcised in the name of culture and religion. They are universal. Men and women are paying a high price all over the world in their own countries to guarantee these rights. The vigil sends out the message that these fights concern us all.”
Highlights of the vigil can been found on Global Minorities Alliance Facebook Page at https://goo.gl/Pon01d .
Photo captions: 1) Raif Badawi. 2) Part of the vigil. 3) Man illustrates the wounds from the lashing for the Saudi blogger. 4) Dan Wooding doing a TV report.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 74, is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for nearly 52 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. He has travelled widely around the world reporting for ANS.
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