Waleed Abdulkhair is a prominent human rights activist and a famous lawyer from Saudi Arabia. He is currently serving a 15- year sentence in his native country. In February 2014, Saudi Arabia passed a new anti-terrorism law, using a vague definition of terrorism to crack down on free speech. Abulkhair was the first human rights activist to be tried and convicted under the law. In the article below, top 10 facts about Waleed Abdulkhair are presented.
10 Facts about Waleed Abdulkhair
- Waleed Abdulkhair was born on June 17, 1979 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He was raised in a religious Hejazi family, a family that had many judges and imams (religious leaders). He was taught to memorize the Holy Quran from a very young age.
- Waleed Abdulkhair received his Bachelor’s degree in Arabic in 2003 at King Abdu Aziz University. He also received a license from Shaikh Obaid Allah Al Afqani and was approved by the Teaching Board of the Holy Mosque in Medinah.
- Abdulkhair met his spouse, Samar Badawi when he took up her case against her father who was verbally and physically abusive toward her. Abdulkhair was successful in defending her rights in court as well as launching a social media campaign. They soon got married and have a daughter together.
- In 2015, Waleed Abdulkhair won the most prestigious prize in human rights in Europe, named the Ludovic Trarieux International Human Rights Prize. He also won the Swedish Olof Palme Award and the Swiss Freethinker Prize. Abdulkadir was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, twice.
- He founded an independent human rights organization in 2008, called Monitor for Human Rights. The Saudi government, unfortunately, banned the website of the organization and its Facebook page, prompting Waleed Abdulkhair to register the website in 2012 with the Canadian Ministry of Labor. This made the organization the first Saudi Arabian human rights organization that was registered abroad.
- The Saudi authorities forbade him from representing particular defendants in court but Abdulkhair defied them. One of his more prominent and recent cases like this was the case of Raif Badawi, the man who garnered international attention when he was flogged for hosting a website advocating for discourse on sociopolitical issues.
- Abdulkhair was arrested in 2013 for hosting what is called a “diwanniya,” an informal gathering at his home where participants would discuss topics such as politics, religion, culture and human rights. It is also referred to as “samood,” meaning resistance or in Arabic.
- Abdulkhair was sentenced to 15 years in prison on July 6, 2014, by Saudi Arabia’s Specialised Criminal Court, the national terrorism tribunal. He was sentenced for violating the anti-terrorism law, was also banned from leaving the country for 15 years and fined over $50,000.
- Abdulkhair strictly refused to apologize to the court for his position on human rights and he did not acknowledge the legitimacy of the Specialised Criminal Court.
- Abdulkhair initiated a hunger strike in the prison he was being kept in as a political statement against the poor treatment of the authorities toward him. He suffers from intestinal complications and diabetes, thus requiring a special diet that the authorities have refused to give him.
Waleed Abdulkhair remains a bastion of hope for human rights, civil liberties and democracy in a country that currently suppresses all three of these things. July 2018 was the fourth anniversary of his sentence. He still remains in jail, similar to his many compatriots speaking against human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia.
– Maneesha Khalae