Goldene Victoria: Rede von Ensaf Haidar bei der Publishers' Night
Ladies and Gentlemen,
first I would like to express my thanks to the German Magazine Publishers for awarding me this prize. I am both grateful and hopeful. Grateful for this great honour you have bestowed on me as the recipient of your prestigious prize. And I am hopeful that with the developments taking place in my home country, a new chapter may be taking shape.
I will never tire of repeating this, again and again. I never chose this role. Fighting for my husband’s release was a role imposed on me. I did not choose it. I did not go out of my way looking for it. It was imposed on me.
Before my husband Raif Badawi was imprisoned in 2012, I was a Saudi woman, living my life despite the constraints imposed on me because of my gender in the Kingdom. I lived in peace and deliberately. Raif was and remains the man of my life and we were happy despite the ups and downs of a marriage of two hot-headed persons.
But all of that changed. It was as if I was living a dream, only to wake up to a nightmare. Our ordeal started when Raif faced persecution for his ideas. He and I feared that our children would be taken away from us. You see, if he were arrested, the male guardianship system we had in the Kingdom would not have allowed me to keep my children while he is in prison. A male member in Raif’s family could have asked for the custody of our children. That was in fact the reason why I had to flee Saudi Arabia with my kids. We could not risk that they would be taken away from us. And we travelled around seeking shelter and refuge until Canada offered us protection and asylum.
I was snatched from my comfort zone and the ordeal changed me. It was imperative to fight for Raif’s release to make his voice heard. Today I stand in front of you as a proud woman and an activist, one who insists that her husband’s case be just and fair. He did not commit any crime other than expressing an opinion shared by many in his generation. He wanted reforms, some of which are being implemented today. He insisted that his generation deserves better than being suffocated by an extremist religious group, who imposed a draconian politicized interpretation of Islam on the country, especially since 1979.
He was expressing an opinion - exercising a universal human right to freedom of opinion.
Ironically, some of the reforms he was demanding are already being implemented in Saudi Arabia today. Yet Raif Badawi is still in prison. Why?
Raif and I have been following the positive developments and reforms taking place in Saudi Arabia lately and we are hopeful – yes hopeful indeed - that this may be the beginning of a new chapter in the Kingdom. While it is too early to say in which direction the Kingdom is moving, I believe that a decision to release Saudi prisoners of conscience, including Raif, will send a clear message of the seriousness of these reforms.
I stand today peacefully and respectfully to appeal to my home country, Saudi Arabia, and request the release of Raif Badawi. It is time that this chapter is turned and a new one starts, not only for my husband and family, but also for my country.