Only four days remain in the Vancouver Writers Fest’s fundraising campaign to bring Ensaf Haidar, the wife of jailed Saudi writer Raif Badawi, to this year’s festival, which runs from October 20 to 25.
VWF organizers are hoping her presence at a festival event will raise awareness of the plight of the 31-year-old Badawi, who was imprisoned by Saudi authorities in 2012 for the crime of “apostasy”. The charge stemmed from a series of blog postings he wrote advocating religious tolerance, social debate, and free expression. His initial sentence of seven years in prison and 600 lashes was increased last year to 10 years and 1,000 lashes. The first set of public floggings were carried out in January. These have since been postponed, apparently because of Badawi’s declining health.
Haidar is scheduled to read from Badawi’s blogs (excerpts of which have been published in English for the first time by Vancouver’s Greystone Books) at St. Andrew’s–Wesley United Church on October 23.
The fundraising campaign, which had accumulated just under $6,800 of its $20,000 goal at the time of writing, is for the purpose of flying Haidar and her three children to Vancouver from Sherbrooke, Quebec, where they’ve lived since being granted Canadian political asylum.