In recent weeks, protesters gathered around the world to draw attention to Raif Badawi, a blogger who was imprisoned in 2014 by the Saudi Government. His supposed crime? Nothing more than writing blog posts that called for greater religious tolerance and dared to imagine a freer future for the Saudi people.
Saudi Arabia has taken some limited steps toward greater religious freedom in 2019 while continuing to restrict it in other ways. On a positive note, Saudi Arabia eased religious restrictions on women’s mobility in 2019 and allowed Saudi women for the first time to report births, marriages, and divorces. It also began issuing tourist visas and relaxed religious restrictions on dress for women visitors to the Kingdom. Yet at the same time, the government has conducted mass executions of Shi’a Muslims. It continued to detain several religious prisoners of conscience and severely mistreat activists who peacefully protested religious guardianship laws, and in official communications it described feminism as a form of radical extremism.
WASHINGTON DC – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) condemns Saudi Arabia’s intensified mistreatment of religious prisoner of conscience Raif Badawi. The Saudi government has moved Badawi to solitary confinement and he has declared a hunger strike in protest. This is Badawi’s second hunger strike since September 2019. Saudi Arabia arrested Badawi in 2012 on charges of “apostasy” and insulting Islam. USCIRF has advocated for Saudi Arabia to release him since 2013 and has recommended that Congress and the administration continue do the same in its 2019 annual report.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 20, 2019
USCIRF calls for immediate Release of blogger Raif Badawi
WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today welcomed changes to Saudi Arabia’s laws that decrease restrictions imposed on women by the religiously-grounded male guardianship system. The changes allow women to travel without a guardian’s permission, maintain legal guardianship over their children, and register marriages, births, and divorces.
WASHINGTON, DC – Nadine Maenza, Vice Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), today called on Saudi authorities to drop all charges against and release religious prisoner of conscience Raif Badawi.