Who is Ashraf Fayadh and what has happened?
He is a 35-year-old Palestinian poet who has been sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia. His “crime” is apostasy – renouncing one’s faith. Human Rights watch has the details …
A Saudi court sentenced a Palestinian man to death for apostasy on November 17, 2015, for alleged blasphemous statements during a discussion group and in a book of his poetry.
The accused, Ashraf Fayadh, 35, denies the charges and claims that another man made false accusations to the country’s religious police following a personal dispute. Fayadh has 30 days to file his appeal.
That aside, even if it was actually true that he had simply stopped being a Muslim and renounced Islam, that is not a crime, but rather is a very basic human right.
Silence in the face of such an absurd abuse is not an option
PEN International, a worldwide association of writers, has taken a very vocal public stance on this, one that we should all endorse, support and promote. Their open letter reads …
We, poets and writers from around the world, are appalled that the Saudi Arabian authorities have sentenced Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh to death for apostasy.
It is not a crime to hold an idea, however unpopular, nor is it a crime to express opinion peacefully. Every individual has the freedom to believe or not believe. Freedom of conscience is an essential human right.
The death sentence against Fayadh is the latest example of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s lack of tolerance for freedom of expression and ongoing persecution of free thinkers.
We, Fayadh’s fellow poets and writers, urge the Saudi authorities to desist from punishing individuals for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression and call for his immediate and unconditional release
Over 50 other organisations from all around the world are standing up with them and has formally signed a letter that has been sent to the Saudis …
We, the undersigned organisations, all dedicated to the value of creative freedom, are writing to express our grave concern that Ashraf Fayadh has been sentenced to death for apostasy.
Ashraf Fayadh, a poet, artist, curator, and member of British-Saudi art organisation Edge of Arabia, was first detained in August 2013 in relation to his collection of poems Instructions Within following the submission of a complaint to the Saudi Committee for the Promotion of Virtue. He was released on bail but rearrested in January 2014.
According to court documents, in May 2014 the General Court of Abha found proof that Fayadh had committed apostasy (ridda) but had repented for it. The charge of apostasy was dropped, but he was nevertheless sentenced to four years in prison and 800 lashes in relation to numerous charges related to blasphemy.
At Ashraf Fayadh’s retrial in November 2015 the judge reversed the previous ruling, declaring that repentance was not enough to avoid the death penalty. We believe that all charges against him should have been dropped entirely, and are appalled that Fayadh has instead been sentenced to death for apostasy, simply for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and freedom of belief.
How you can help
You can add your voice to all the others by popping on over to Amnesty International and signing the petition.
You can also write and blog about this gross injustice.
Saudi Arabia threatens to Sue anybody who compares them to ISIS
Would you believe that Saudi Arabia has threatened to sue anybody who tweets that this is akin to the behaviour of ISIS.
Actually, I’m not sure that making that comparison would be fair. When you consider abhorrent immoral things such as executions, stoning, beheading, flogging and amputations for adultery, apostasy and criticism; or indeed for any human rights violations, then clearly Saudi Arabia has far more experience and so ISIS pales into the background as amateurs by comparison.