Raif Badawi - 2015, Saudi Arabia

© Amnesty International

Raif Badawi is a jailed and flogged young Saudi Arabian blogger and advocate of freedom of thought and expression.

He founded and ran the Saudi Liberals, and later the Free Saudi Liberal Network, online forums for the discussion of religion and politics in the conservative country, and had a thousand registered users when he was detained for a day in 2008 and interrogated on suspicion of apostasy, a crime punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.  Subsequently, he was banned indefinitely from leaving Saudi Arabia, his bank accounts were frozen and his wife's family attempted to force a divorce. A fatwa was put on his head by a hardline imam.

Badawi valiantly continued to air his moderately liberal views. He wrote, amongst other issues, in defence of the right to freedom of thought and expression and called for a society open to the views of others. A free thinker in an Arab society whimpering under the theocratic yoke, Badawi wrote, just needed to express an opinion to bring down on their head a fatwa. This, he feared, would cause the brightest minds to flee. A voice of liberalism in Saudi Arabia, Badawi was engaging with his writings, online and in traditional media, in enlightening his community and defeating ignorance, eroding the untouchability of the clergy and promoting respect for freedom of expression, women's rights and those of minorities and poor people in Saudi Arabia, as he wrote from prison in 2015 in a preface to a book of writings of his salvaged despite the permanent closure of his websites.

Badawi was arrested in 2012 and indicted on several charges including apostasy, though no court has ruled on the latter. He was convicted for establishing a forum hosting blasphemous commentary and blasphemous online posts, and sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in 2013, and then resentenced to 1,000 lashes and ten years in prison plus a fine of a million riyals (€226 000) in 2014. He was flogged 50 times before a chanting crowd in front of a Jeddah mosque in January 2015 in what was meant to be the first in a series of 1,000 floggings to be carried out over twenty weeks. Doctors who examined him after the first, fast lashings found wounds so deep, they judged he would not survive another flogging. The international outcry and concerns about his health have so far stayed further lashings, but his sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court in June 2015.  He is banned from using any media outlets and from travelling abroad for 10 years after his release from prison.

Badawi's wife Ensaf Haidar and their three children live in Canada, having fled Saudi Arabia in 2013 because of anonymous death threats. 

In prison Raif Badawi has found understanding of the humanity of those he is incarcerated with.

Denis Mukwege - 2014, Democratic Republic of Congo

Malala Yousafzai - 2013, Pakistan

Nasrin Sotoudeh - 2012, Iran

Jafar Panahi - 2012, Iran

Mohamed Bouazizi - 2011, Tunisia

Ali Ferzat - 2011, Syria

Asmaa Mahfouz - 2011, Egypt

Ahmed El Zuber El Senussi - 2011, Lybia

Razan Zaitouneh - 2011, Syria

Guillermo Fariñas - 2010, Cuba

  • URL

Photos from Award Ceremonies