Had they broken his bones?

The Guardian has an excerpt from Ensaf Haidar’s new book. It’s about the day Raif called to tell her he was going to be flogged the next day, and the immediate aftermath of that for her and for their children.

A friend told her there was a video.

It wasn’t hard to find. By now some of my Facebook friends were referring to it. It also appeared immediately on YouTube when you searched for “Raif Badawi” and “lashes”. It was as if I was being operated by remote control. With trembling hands I clicked on the video to set it in motion. I saw Raif’s delicate frame from behind, in the middle of a big crowd of people. He was wearing a white shirt and dark trousers, and his hair hung down to his shoulders. He looked thin. His hands were cuffed in front of his body. I couldn’t see his face. The men around him were wearing the usual white gowns and shouting “Allahu Akbar”.

A big crowd of men, surrounding a thin man in handcuffs who was about to be whipped, shouting “God is Great.” The hell it is. That god is a god of bullies – and that god is a bully. That god hides itself from human beings, but expects those human beings to torture to death anyone who doesn’t bow down to that hidden god. What a loathsome trick.

The man himself could not be made out in the video. But I saw clearly that he was striking Raif with all his might. Raif’s head was bowed. In very quick succession he took the blows all over the back of his body: he was lashed from shoulders to calves, while the men around him clapped and uttered pious phrases. It was too much for me. It’s indescribable, watching something like that being done to the person you love. I felt the pain they were inflicting on Raif as if it was my own.

The men I had seen in the video might as well have put me in a square and flogged me. But worst of all was the feeling of helplessness. I sat on my sofa, wrapped my arms around my legs and wept. I don’t know how long I sat there for. The phone rang several times, but I didn’t answer. How was Raif now, I wondered. How severe were the wounds that he had suffered from this brutal abuse? Had they broken his bones? The violence of the blows almost made me suspect as much. Did he get medical treatment for his wounds? If only I could have done something for him!

If only human beings would walk away from the Bully God.

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