It began with a blog.
Raif Badawi, a Saudi citizen, criticized the clerics of his country. In response, he was tried for insulting Islam in 2014. He was convicted, and sentenced to 1000 lashes and 10 years imprisonment.
His family sought to bring the attention of the world to the case, and they succeeded. Human rights groups called for a reversal of the decision and for Badawi to be freed. Instead, he was publicly given fifty lashes and remains imprisoned.
Raif’s wife and three children fled the country to Canada, and have been granted Canadian citizenship.
His sister, Samar Badawi, was the primary face of the campaign to free him, and also campaigns for free speech and women’s rights both in Saudi Arabia specifically and the Persian Gulf area generally. In recognition of her efforts on behalf of international freedom, she applied for citizenship in the United States and was granted it in 2013. For much of her time, she continues to live in Saudi Arabia, working on her pro-freedom efforts.
Over the course of recent weeks, Saudi officials have been arresting human rights activists. On July 30, they arrested Samar Badawi, and the fuse was lit. (BBC)
The Canadian government, through Twitter, voiced its concerns.
This set off a tweetstorm from Saudi Arabia’s government:
Shortly after those tweets were released, a verified Twitter account used by a non-profit technological group affiliated with the Saudi Royal Family, @infographic_ksa, posted the image that appears in the header of this article. It has since been removed, with an explanation that it was merely meant to convey that the Canadian diplomat was being sent home. (National Post)
While Canada has become embroiled in a diplomatic conflict over the jailing of Samar Badawi, the United States has not issued a public condemnation nor statement of any kind. Again, Samar is a United States citizen.
Much has been made of the reforms that have been promised by the Saudi Crown Prince. A famed picture of Trump grasping a glowing globe was commemorating the inauguration of a new center against extremism. The recent moves of the Kingdom indicate they may not have had serious intent behind them. It may be the same style of regime as in the past, only with an effort to use unwitting international leaders to whitewash its image.