ENSAF HAIDAR: "He's bad, mentally and physically"

ENSAF HAIDAR: "He's bad, mentally and physically"

Ensaf Haidar is the wife of convicted Saudi Blogger Raif Badawi. In her new book she tells her unusual love story.


Photo: Michael Hübner

When you meet Ensaf Haidar, she always has her phone with her. It could be that her husband, the condemned Saudi Blogger Raif Badawi, may call her for a few minutes from his prison. These rare windows of time are precious. For a few moments she can tell him how she and the children are doing, and how the worldwide campaign for his release is running.
The whole world knows his face - Raif is the blogger who was sentenced to 1000 lashes, 10 years in prison and a heavy fine for 'insulting Islam'. In her first book Ensaf tells of her own love story and Raif's struggle for free speech and equality.
At the beginning of her relationship with Raif she also held her phone close, hoping to see the display flash with a call from him. In the beginning they had to fight for their love.
For the first two years she could only share snatched glances with Raif, because it is a serious offence in Saudi Arabia for a woman to have anything to do with a man from outside of the family, let alone speak to one on the phone. In Saudi Arabia, the honour of the family depends on the strict chastity of daughters. Women have no rights - only a male guardian (father, brother or husband) can make decisions about their lives.
Against all odds, the two fought for this forbidden love. They married against the wishes of Ensaf's family in 2002 and moved away to the City of Jeddah. They have three children - Nedschua, Dodi and Miriam. As Raif was arrested in 2012, Ensaf fled with the children and found sanctuary in Quebec, Canada. From there, she fights for his freedom and tries to give their children a normal life.

BILD interviewed the petite Ensaf:
BILD: What is currently happening with Raif?
ENSAF: "He's bad, both physically and mentally. Although he continues to believe in his cause and in justice, the circumstances in which he is caught up are unbearable. The worldwide campaign for his release gives him strength."
Does the Campaign make a difference?
ENSAF: "The signals from the Saudi Government are very contradictory. Just recently, the judgement was upheld in it's entirity. Then, we learned that they think the process should be opened again. We ourselves do not know what is going on, because the state usually does everything in secret. Usually we only learn about new developments from the media. For me and the children the campaign is vitally important, it gives us the strength to continue the fight for Raif."
Why did you write this book?
ENSAF: "Through Raif's own book people are familiar now with his work and his concerns through his blog entries. It is important now to describe Raif the man, and his family, so that he is understood as an individual personaity with a life story."  
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