We Are Raif: a campaign for free speech and human rights in Saudi Arabia

Today, we announce the formation of ‘We Are Raif: a campaign for free speech and human rights in Saudi Arabia’. The coalition has been initiated by a number of human rights campaigners and organisations that have been working together for the last nine months to call for the release of the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi and his lawyer Waleed Abulkhair. They include Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, Campaign Against Arms Trade, English PEN, Free Raif UK, Gulf Center for Human Rights, Hope Not Hate, Index On Censorship, the Jimmy Wales Foundation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, and One Law for All.

Nine months ago, on 9 January 2015, Raif Badawi was taken from his prison cell to a square in Jeddah and lashed 50 times. These were the first 50 lashes of a sentence of 1,000 lashes – a punishment that was threatened to be repeated every week for the following 19 weeks.

Raif’s ‘crime’? To encourage debate about religion and politics and call for democratisation and change in Saudi Arabia.

That day, much of the world woke up to the horror that is Saudi Arabia today. We have further watched over these nine months as more than 130 executions have taken place in Saudi Arabia.

In March, we saw the Saudi regime begin its sectarian war in Yemen that has led to the deaths of over 5,400 people with evidence of unlawful airstrikes carried out by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, some of which amount to war crimes, including use of cluster bombs. We also see the Saudi regime involved heavily in the Syrian conflict in pursuit of their narrow geopolitical interest. Meanwhile in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia directly supports a regime that maintains power through violence, unfair trials, and torture.

Over the last four months we’ve been supporting a legal action to challenge the British government’s bid to sell prison training services to the Saudi government. This week we celebrate the government cancelling that bid and succumbing to popular pressure.

The aim of the coalition is to give support to those standing up for freedom in Saudi Arabia; to demand an end to executions, beheadings, stonings and their travesty of a justice system; and to demand that our government and businesses in Britain are no longer complicit in the crimes of the regime, by arming it and boosting the prestige of their rulers. We intend to continue our campaign until free speech and democratic rights are won for the people of Saudi Arabia.

Our aims

We campaign:
1. for the release of Raif Badawi and Waleed Abulkhair
2. for the release of all those detained in Saudi Arabia in violation of their right to freedom of expression
3. for Saudi Arabia to end human rights abuses domestically and its complicity with human rights abuses in the region
4. for democratic rights in Saudi Arabia as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations

We support these rights being fought for and protected elsewhere and will work with other campaigns focussing on the achievement of these liberties in other countries when appropriate. We will also work with other campaigns that focus on particular human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia when appropriate.

Our demands
1) We call on the UK government:
a) To pressure the Saudi government to release political prisoners and end human rights abuses and to do so openly;
b) To end the sales of UK arms and military equipment, including military support packages, to Saudi Arabia.
2) We call for an end to any business relations with the Saudi regime that serve to legitimise the Saudi authorities and the repression of freedom of expression in the country
3) We call on businesses that trade with Saudi Arabia to review Corporate Social Responsibility guidelines and to ensure that they are compliant with human rights

In four weeks time we will have the first planning meeting of the coalition and we invite existing campaigns, trade unions and community organisations to get in touch if you would like to be involved.

For further information about the launch of this campaign please contact:

Pete Radcliff – FreeRaifUK@gmail.com 07519 662605
Melanie Gingell melaniegingell@me.com 07572430903
Cat Lucas cat@englishpen.org

Website: http://WeAreRaifUK.org
Twitter: @weareraifuk
Email: weareraifuk@gmail.com


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