Category: Events

This month marks five years since the Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi was arrested in Jeddah in June 2012. Almost two years later, in May 2014, Badawi was sentenced to ten years in prison, 1000 lashes, a huge fine, and two additional penalties – a ten-year travel ban and ten-year ban from participating in visual, electronic and written media, both to be applied following his release.  Raif has now served nearly half of his ten-year prison sentence and the campaign for his release, championed by his remarkable wife Ensaf Haidar, continues.English PEN was honoured to co-host Haidar during a recent trip to the UK, along with our colleagues at Reporters Without Borders. Haidar met with key human rights and free expression organisations active on her husband’s behalf, took part in a number of media interviews, and attended a special vigil at the Saudi Arabian Embassy, joined by many of her and her husband’s friends and supporters.

Haidar also spoke at an event hosted by Doughty Street Chambers, at which she delivered a moving statement about her husband’s ongoing detention, translated by Bayan Abughaida:

Today I carry a message from my husband and my three children who have been deprived of their father for exercising a natural right to express his opinion.

I bring you a message of hope that one day, I will see my husband, Raif Badawi, standing among you on this platform, to talk to you about freedom and human rights, to tell you how freedom cannot be incarcerated, flogged, or executed. No matter how hard some try.

I also carry a message of determination:

A determined Saudi woman, standing here, and saying that a peaceful transition in Saudi Arabia is possible. With this new generation, the generation of globalisation, Internet, and blogs; ideas can no longer be prevented or blocked. It is a new change, a new revolution, from Morocco to Jakarta, young people today will determine the future and we must support and stand by them. Thus, your role here is participating in this change.

Raif Badawi’s message can be summed up as follows: The peaceful expression of opinion and thought is a non-negotiable human right, which is the right of all human beings with no exception.

However, the real prisoners are those who can defend freedom but do not….

Raif has not lost hope, but he is mentally and physically suffering from this unjust sentence. I can tell you that he is fine and very optimistic, but I will be lying. His mental health is worsening. So I beg you for more mobilisation and solidarity. What frightens every detainee is to be forgotten by the supporters of freedom.


Join our protest at the Saudi Embassy

9-10am, Friday 16 June

To mark the five year anniversary of Raif Badawi’s arrest and the birthday of his lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair, who himself is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence, English PEN will be hosting a vigil at the Saudi Embassy in London and continuing to call for their immediate release.

We will be joined by colleagues from Bread and Roses TV, Campaign Against Arms Trade, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, Index on Censorship, One Law For All, the Peter Tatchell Foundation and Reporters Without Borders. Please join us if you can.

NB Activists are asked to meet at the Curzon Street entrance to the Embassy. (note: the postal address of the Embassy is 30-32 Charles Street, Mayfair, London).

Spread the word

Please keep sharing details of Raif Badawi’s case and calls for his release on social media. Follow @Raif_Badawi on Twitter and tweet your support with the hashtag #FreeRaif

Join the photo action for Raif Badawi

We are aiming to get 1000 images to represent the 1000 lashes to which Raif has been sentenced. As well as helping to raise and maintain awareness of his case, these photos will serve as a powerful visual representation of the widespread support for Raif and his family .

Please share your photo, ideally with details of where it was taken (eg Embassy of Saudi Arabia, London, UK), with us before the 17 June 2017.

Download our #FreeRaif poster

Send us your photos

Via Twitter: Please share your photo with the hashtag #FreeRaif and tag @englishpen

Via Facebook: Please tag English PEN Writers at Risk in your photos, and use the hashtag #FreeRaif

Via Email: Please email your photos, with the subject line ‘Free Raif photo’ to [email protected]

On 23 June 2017 at 14:00, we will meet at Green Park station and go on to “eat-in” at the Saudi, Iranian, Egyptian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Moroccan and other embassies in London in solidarity with those defying fasting rules during Ramadan. This is hugely important given that there are many people across the globe who are arrested, beaten and fined for eating during the month; many others are pressured into fasting, including in Europe. Join us at the ‘eat-in’ if you can.

Alternately, you can upload photos of yourself eating during fasting times or holding signs with messages of solidarity using hashtag: #IWillNotFast #لن_اصوم #روزه خوارى #Ramadan until the end of Ramadan. Happy fast-defiance!

To participate, just show up. Email [email protected] for more details.

Here are photos of this year’s fast-defying:

Calling all volunteers who want to make a statement for our cause: We need you! Mass bodypainting by award-winning bodypainter Victoria Gugenheim on 24 July from 1400 hours in London.
Participants will be painted as the logo of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) and photographed from above. The public are welcome to join in order to support the work of the CEMB.

For further information, contact: [email protected]

The event is free.

Do I have to be nude?
No. Flesh coloured underwear can be worn; plain, beige coloured, brown or black bras can also be painted over.
Will I get cold?:
The weather should be good, but bring a warm dressing gown and sandals!
Will the paint stain?
Although we recommend not wearing anything crisp new and white, no. The paint comes off in the shower with shower gel, and off of clothes with normal biological washing powder or capsules.
How long will it take?
From 14:00-20:00 hours, and painting groups of people will be done in stages, with multiple groups. If you’re later, you’ll be in group 2 or 3 for example, and not group 1.

Tuesday 24 October 2017, 6:30pm-8:30pm, central London by Kings Cross
Evening with Peter Tatchell, Human Rights Campaigner, on the links between the gay rights and ex-Muslim rights

PLEASE NOTE: This is a new venue for our monthly meet-ups; if you would like to attend, please email [email protected] to register and receive further information. If you already know the new location, just show up.

Suggested donation: £3 waged; £1 unwaged.


Peter Tatchell has been campaigning for human rights and global justice since 1967. New Statesman readers voted him sixth on their list of “Heroes of our Time” 2006. He won Campaigner of the Year at The Observer Ethical Awards 2009, as well as Secularist of the Year 2012. He writes and broadcasts on many human rights and social justice issues. In protest against the Archbishop of Canterbury’s support for legal discrimination against LGBT people, he interrupted Dr Carey’s Easter Sunday Sermon in 1998. He attempted a citizen’s arrest of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in 1999 and again in 2001, and was beaten unconscious the second time. He was also arrested and beaten when he went to support Moscow LGBT Pride in 2007. Both attacks left him with brain and eye damage. He is currently the Director of the human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

CEMB to join Gay Pride London

A CEMB contingent will march in the gay pride parade in London on 8 July 2017. Those who want to be part of the CEMB contingent, please email Daniel Fitzgerald at [email protected]

University of Nottingham

Spokesperson Sadia Hameed will be speaking at the University of Nottingham at an event organised by the Agnostic, Secularist and Humanist Society after the screening of Deeyah Khan’s film Islam’s Non Believers.

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