Thursday, April 14, 2016

Review 'Raif Badawi: The Voice of Freedom' by Ensaf Haidar powerful and moving account of the treatment of Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger sentenced to 1000 lashes, as well as the story of his wife and their family's struggle.

The whole world knows the face of the young man with the bright black eyes. He is in the process of becoming an icon, a symbol, similar to the famous photo of Che Guevara. The face is that of Raif Badawi, who was nominated for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize. Arrested in Saudi Arabia, he was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment and 1000 lashes - a de facto death sentence.

The woman who succeeded in getting such people as Barack Obama and Prince Charles to appeal personally to the Saudi King for Badawi's release is his wife, Ensaf Haidar, who began the campaign to free her husband with a self-painted poster in front of a small church in Sherbrooke, Canada.

When Raif Badawi and Ensaf Haidar fell in love with each other as adolescents, they did so in violation of every moral precept in the strictly Islamic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. During their clandestine love affair, the young couple had no idea that, more than a decade later, Ensaf's love for Raif would attract the attention of politicians from around the world as the blogger's wife now mobilises global public opinion in an effort to save her husband from murder at the hands of the Saudi judiciary. With a courage born of desperation, she is fighting from exile in Canada to secure the release of the father of her three children, and is bringing great pressure to bear on the murderous regime in her native country.

Ensaf Haidar tells Raif's and her own story: the story of their shared liberal ideas and her fight for her husband's release.

The Facts:

Publication Date:
March 16th 2016
Non- Fiction
Available at:

My Review:

I don’t read a lot of non-fiction books. Not because I don’t like them, but just because I don’t find a lot of them that sound interesting to me. For example, I have the memoir of Hilary Clinton, but it just bored me after a view chapters and I quit reading it. But when I heard about this book about Raif Badawi, written by his wife Ensaf, I decided I definitely needed to read this book.

I’m writing this review almost twenty four hours after I finished reading ‘Raif Badawi: The Voice of Freedom’ and I find it difficult to write my thoughts about this book down. Reading this book makes it obviously clear how good we have it here in the Western world. In the beginning of this book we get to read how life is for a young woman in Saudi Arabia, and let me tell you it’s horrific. Woman are not allowed to come outside without being completely covered, they aren’t allowed to drive a car and they can’t work. I was completely in shock when I read this.

But that’s not the only shocking thing about this read. Ensaf and Raif had to overcome a lot of obstacles to just be together. And when they were finally happy and living their life with their children, the trouble really began. Raif started a website on which he just expressed his opinion. Soon there lives changed drastically because Raif wasn’t allowed to share his opinion about Saudi Arabia online. Life wasn’t safe anymore for Raif, Ensaf and their children and they had to flee the country. Raif couldn’t come with them because he wasn’t allowed to leave the country anymore. And in 2012 Raif was arrested on a charge of insulting Islam through electronic channels. He is sentenced to 1000 lashes and ten years in prison. Ensaf got asylum in Canada and has been fighting for Raif’s freedom ever since.

The most shocking thing for me is the fact that Raif still remains in prison. On YouTube you can find video’s on which you can see he is receiving lashes just because he told the world what he thought. It’s the modern world and we are living our lives while an innocent man is being tortured. And the worst thing is, there are probably many more people like Raif out there. I realise more than ever how lucky I am to be living in the Netherlands. I got the education I wanted, I life the live I want and most times I do whatever I want without thinking about it.  This book really shook me!

From the moment I started reading this book I was hooked to every page. The story about how Raif and Ensaf met was just so romantic and I was in complete awe reading about their dedication and patience towards getting married. They really deserve to be together again.
The writing in this book was also really good. It was easy to follow and it made me keep on reading even though it became hard to read at times.

This book definitely needs to be read. And I definitely will try to do my part in helping Raid Badawi by sharing posts on social media etc. 

My Rating:

About Raif Badawi:

Raif Badawi, born 13th january 1984, is a Saudi Arabian writer and activist and the creator of the website Free Saudi Liberals.

He was arrested in 2012 on a charge of insulting Islam through electronic channels and brought to court on several charges including apostasy. He was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in 2013, then resentenced to 1000 lashes and ten years in prison plus a fine in 2014. The lashes were to be carried out over 20 weeks.

The first 50 lashes were administered on January 9, 2015. The second set has been postponed eight times. The reason for the most recent postponement is unknown, but in previous weeks the lashes have been delayed due to Badawi's poor health.  Badawi is known to have hypertension and his health has worsened since the flogging began. His wife, Ensaf Haidar, has asserted that Raif will not be able to survive it.

Father of three children (Terad, Najwa and Miriam), he married Ensaf Haidar in 2002 in Saudi Arabia. His wife and children obtained political asylum in Quebec, Canada, in 2013. Both Raif and his sister Samar, who is also an activist, were educated to seventh-grade level.

If you are interested in finding out more information about Raif Badawi and how you can help him, please visit the website. There are several methods to help out!!

Raif Badawi's book of writings - "1000 Lashes,Because I Say What I Think" is available already in several languages - more translations are planned. The book can be purchased from Amazon worldwide. Proceeds from the sales of Raif's books go to his family.

About the Author:

Ensaf Haidar is married to Raif Badawi and is president of the Raif Badawi Foundation. She lives in Canada with her children.

To follow and support Ensaf Haidar you can visit her on Facebook and Twitter.

I received this book from the Little, Brown Book Group in exchange for my honest review.


  1. I don't read as many non-fiction I as would like because I tend to go for socially, culturally and emotionally charged reads like this one and somehow they stay with me forever. So I usually face reality with the news (TV) and then read to escape it. The last I read was "I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced" and I still remember how I felt when I read it. This book would shock you too as far as how girls are treated in some countries. Heartbreaking. After that I decided that if I ever publish my WIP the proceeds will go to help child brides. I even made the child bride issue a central topic in my story. I have been following Raif's history for a while now. I know exactly how you feel about how good we have it. Sometimes I even feel guilty for enjoying life when so many people around the world suffer misery, persecution and torture. Excellent review Maureen. Good for you for raising awareness and for doing your part in in helping Raid Badawi

    1. Thanks for your comment Daniela. What a good cause to help child brides. I haven’t read ‘I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced’ but I did hear about this aggravating thing. The world definitely is a strange place at times.
      Books like these make you see what is wrong in the world and that we really do need to help each other out at times. And it sure makes all the little things I worry about sometimes, seem silly.
      But I think we don’t need to feel guilty about how good we do have at, but we really do need to be more thankful. Especially after reading and hearing stories like this.


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