*The Arabic script is at the bottom.*
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: In brief, what is your family background?
Ensaf Haidar: I was a Saudi woman before I became a Canadian citizen. I was born to a conservative family in Saudi Arabia.
Jacobsen: What is your personal background?
Haidar: My name is Ensaf Haidar, wife of prisoner of conscience Raif Badawi, imprisoned in Saudi Arabia, mother of three children, and a Canadian citizen living in the Canadian province of Quebec.
Jacobsen: How did these influence your development?
Haidar: Certainly, memorization of the Quran during my studies had a big impact. I even specialized in Islamic Studies in college.
Jacobsen: For those who may not know, who is Raif Badawi?
Jacobsen: How long has he been imprisoned now?
Haidar: It’s around 7 years now.
Jacobsen: How are other writers affected?
Haidar: Unfortunately, everyone is afraid and the prisons are full of writers.
Jacobsen: How is Canada’s leadership helping persecuted writers in some ways and not in others?
Haidar: I think that the politicians in Canada are doing a wonderful job. Canada has always been strong and open about defending human rights, not only in Saudi Arabia, but all over the world.
Jacobsen: Why do theocracies fear writers?
Haidar: Your question reminded me of a famous quote by an atheist Saudi writer named Abdullah al-Qasemi, who said that the worst thing about the religious is that they tolerate the corrupt and don’t tolerate the intellectuals.
The pen is more powerful than bullets in the Arab and Islamic world.
Jacobsen: How are you feeling given the distance of the man you love?
Haidar: There are no words in the world that can possibly describe my feelings about Raif and what is happening to him.
Jacobsen: What else can be done to save the lives and protect the rights of writers and dissidents around the world?
Haidar: Speak up loudly – have the conversation everywhere, at every opportunity. Urge politicians to embrace human rights issues.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Ensaf.
Image Credit: ©Renaud Ben Lakhal.