How I Told My Children Their Father Had Been Lashed

Ensaf Haidar on the aftermath of Raif Badawi's first set of 50 lashes
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 18, 2016 9:14 AM CDT
How I Told My Children Their Father Had Been Lashed
Ensaf Haidar, wife of the jailed Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi, shows a portrait of her husband as he is awarded with the Sakharov Prize, Wednesday Dec, 16, 2015.    (AP Photo/Christian Lutz)

"Will you promise me that you'll ... not tell the children?" So asked Saudi blogger Raif Badawi of his wife when he called in early January 2015 to break the news that the first 50 lashes of the 1,000 he had been sentenced by his country to receive would be doled out the next day. Ensaf Haidar recounts the experience in an excerpt from her new book, The Voice of Freedom: My Husband, Our Story, published by the Guardian. And so, the next morning, she told her children they were taking a break from the Internet and TV, and not going to school either, instead having a play-day with some friends and their dogs. The children were all too pleased; Haidar, later alone, clicked "with trembling hands" to play a video of what had transpired.

She describes what she saw as "indescribable, watching something like that being done to the person you love." She wondered if the force of the lashes had broken her husband's bones. She managed to keep her children from the news all weekend, but the coverage didn't subside, and on Sunday night, the principal of their school called to discuss how to advise the kids' classmates—and to tell Haidar she needed to tell her children what happened, lest they inevitably find out from a peer. When she sat them down, they immediately asked after their father. "Everything’s great, but ... the prison warders are very bad people. They, they..." She couldn't finish. The social worker with her explained he was very hurt, but was "better" now. "My children reacted very strangely to this new revelation. They didn’t react at all," she writes. That silence persisted. Read the full excerpt here. (Read more Raif Badawi stories.)

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