Bono Issues #ClemencyCall to Saudi Arabia

Screen Grab from U2 Concert, Montreal Canada, 6/17/2015

Screen Grab from U2 Concert, Montreal Canada, 6/17/2015

Montreal, Canada (TFC) – Bono and U2 staged a concert yesterday in Montreal where they called on concert goers to raise their voices of freedom to Saudi Arabia.  Bono, an avowed social activist, is raising awareness of Raif Badawi and human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia.

According to the band’s website, “Since early collaborations with Greenpeace and Amnesty International, the band have consistently thrown a spotlight on the work of campaign groups trying to make the world a better place.”  The band, using terminology common in many US military actions, refers to their work with Greenpeace and Amnesty International as “hearts and minds” activist efforts.

Even though Bono is also known for his rather questionable associations with the World Economic Forum and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and forced vaccinations in Africa, his support of the #Backlash campaign offers a significant boost to the international effort to free the Saudi blogger and 30,000 others being held in that country in violation of human rights and civil liberties.

At U2’s concert Wednesday night, Bono dedicated his intro of “Pride (In the Name of Love)” to Raif’s family “seeking refuge” in Canada.  “Sing your song of freedom all the way to Saudi Arabia,” Bono said to the packed Bell Centre arena.  Raif’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, was in attendance as a special guest for the evening and was able to hear the crowd erupt in “boos” as Bono described the “barbaric” punishment that the Saudi government gave Raif as a sentence.

Ensaf Haidar at U2 concert, Montreal Canada, 6/17/2015, from screen capture

Ensaf Haidar at U2 concert, Montreal Canada, 6/17/2015, from screen capture

For Haidar, who has emigrated to Canada with her children to escape persecution in Saudi Arabia, life has become an “inferno of unbearable torture” for her and her family.  “After we got married in 2002, our life together was beautiful, careless and free, up until he decided to launch his first Saudi Liberals website several years later,” she told Amnesty International.  “Ever since then, I have always feared for Raif’s safety.”

Haidar continues to petition King Salman for mercy for Raif.  “I have pleaded and would like to reiterate my plea to His Majesty King Salman, Saudi Arabia’s ruler, to pardon Raif and stop his flogging. It is true that I have received no reply, but I remain optimistic and will continue pleading until the last moment.”

Her petitions are not the only ones being sent to the Saudi King.  A petition has appeared on Change.org entitled, “A Global Appeal from the Voice of the People of the World to His Majesty King Salman to Grant a Royal Pardon to Raif Badawi and Waleed Sami Abulkhair.”  Waleed is a human rights lawyer and one time head of the Human Rights First Society in Saudi Arabia that has been detained along with Raif for challenging the Saudi monarchy.

The petition, essentially a sycophantic beseeching for mercy, states:

We respectfully acknowledge that there will be many challenges ahead for you but also unique opportunities in your role as a Sovereign Ruler. The humanitarian choices and decisions you make as the head of Saudi Arabia ultimately present a possibility for your own name to be written into the annals of history, alongside all those who have made an instrumental contribution to global evolution and world peace.

It continues:

The case of Raif Badawi has placed Saudi Arabia under the international spotlight and brought it to the attention of millions of global citizens. There is now an unprecedented opportunity to gain new found respect by applying the highest principles, virtues, morals and values in your rulership which reflect those bestowed by the Prophet/Messenger Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him).

When asked about the concert and the petition, Nathan Newman of the Backlash Group said:

As Peter Tatchell mentioned last night at a gathering to discuss the Saudi regime, they are rattled by opposition. The outpouring of support at protests, vigils and through the Internet has been nothing short of monumental for the defence of International Human Rights. U2 helping to amplify the voice of global citizens was nothing short of emotional and jaw dropping. Many people have been moved and we hope more people will take an interest in Saudi Arabia, Raif and Waleed. The power to challenge dictatorial regimes and brutal torture lives in your pocket. Grab your phone, research a hashtag and express yourself through social media.

He tells The Fifth Column that a micro-site will be established for activists across the globe to quickly and easily tweet to the Saudi King and ministers in order to maintain pressure on the Saudi government to respect human rights in the country.  In the meantime, human rights and #backlash supporters can issue their #clemencycall on the change.org petition site.

And as Bono told the crowd in Montreal, when Raif is freed, it will be “a beautiful day.”