The Execution of Sheikh Nimr

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Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr was a Shia cleric and a political activist calling for free elections in Saudi Arabia who was executed by the Saudi regime on Jan. 2nd, 2016.

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Think not of those who are slain in Allah’s way as dead. Nay, they live, finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord. The Holy Quran (3:169)

Narration: Dubai, the fireworks light up the sky with the stunning display of colors. The New Year has just arrived. 2016 …

The neighboring country celebrates the New Year in a different manner. Saudi Arabia has a little surprise for the whole world. To begin with, the Saudis execute 47 people in a single day; one of them, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shia cleric; an Ayatollah. He was arrested in 2012 after protests broke out in the long marginalized oil-rich Shia areas of the Eastern Province. During his arrest, Nimr was shot four times in the leg. Saudi prosecutors called for Nimr’s execution by crucifixion, a punishment that involves beheading followed by public display of the decapitated body.

A revered Shia leader of Friday prayers in the Saudi Eastern Province, Sheikh Nimr stayed clear of political parties but demanded free elections. He was regularly detained and tortured for opposing the Wahhabi Saudi government. While willing to publicly criticize the ruling family and call for elections, Sheikh Nimr was careful to avoid calling for violence. For him, “The roar of the word against authorities rather than weapons… the weapon of the word is stronger than bullets, because authorities will profit from a battle of weapons.”

Despite this, he was arrested by Saudi authorities in 2012 year on charges of “sedition.” In 2014, a Saudi court sentenced Sheikh Nimr and his nephew who was only 17 when he was arrested to death, provoking widespread global condemnations.

SOUNDBITE [English] Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Partyat UK: So for my first message to David Cameron, I say to him now a little message from our conference, I hope he’s listening – you never know: Intervene now personally with the Saudi Arabian regime to stop the beheading and crucifixion of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who is threatened with the death penalty, for taking part in a demonstration at the age of 17. And while you’re about it, terminate that bid made by our Ministry of Justice’s to provide services for Saudi Arabia - which would be required to carry out the sentence that would be put down on Mohammed Ali al-Nimr.”

Narration: The sentence was upheld last March by the appeal court of Saudi Arabia. Sheikh Nimr was executed on November 2, 2016.

SOUNDBITE [English] Protester’s slogans: Down down, Al Saud…

Terrorist … Al Saud

No tyrant executes a scholar, or a martyr or an individual who is a leader in a community and lives for long.

Al Saud no more … 1, 2, 3, 4, Al Saud no more …

… done nothing but use Islam for security; a regime whose existence is shame for anyone who is on earth and this regime is non-other but Saudi Arabia.

No peace, no justice … No peace, no justice

Today is a day of mourning. Mark this day, the second of January. The day our own scholar, the day the defender of the innocent was slaughtered to death before our very eyes.”

Narration: The execution triggered international condemnation, with the harshest reaction coming from Iran. The Iranian Foreign Ministry showed a stronger reaction by summoning the deputy head of the Saudi mission in Tehran to convey the Islamic Republic’s objection.

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Hossein Jaberi Ansari, Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman: “Having its life and interests in creating tensions, Saudi Arabia has used this issue as a pretext to increase tension and conflict.”

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Narration: Iran was not alone in denouncing the Saudi execution of Sheik Nimr. The move also drew condemnation from leading rights organizations and other countries both in the Middle East and beyond.

SOUNDBITE [English] Protester: “It’s utterly and utterly unacceptable that a peaceful dissident like him should have been detained in the first place but to be executed as well. It’s shameful.”

Narration: Despite criticizing Saudi Arabia over the execution of Sheikh Nimr, the country’s Western allies, including the US and UK, didn’t taking any genuine measures to force Riyadh into changing course. David Cameron still faces growing criticism as he continues to stay silent on the execution of Sheikh, being accused by human rights campaigners of “turning a blind eye” to Saudi abuses.

According to Amnesty International Saudi Arabia has long been one of the most prolific executioners in the world with at least 157 executions in 2015. That’s while, Saudi Arabia executed nearly 50 people on the second day of 2016 to show that it hasn’t made any New Year resolutions yet. Despite the Saudis’ appalling human rights record, the country was appointed to the UN Human Rights Council two years ago. Leaked diplomatic cables have revealed the UK was a key player in the election of this Persian Gulf State. Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, said,

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“Based on the evidence, we remain deeply concerned that the UK may have contracted to elect the world’s most misogynistic regime as a world judge of human rights.” Hillo Neuer

SOUNDBITE [English] Interviewer: “As we in November did a deal with the Saudis that we would back them joining the human rights councils in the United Nations providing they backed us. Isn’t this sounds a bit squalid for one or the most human right abusing regime on earth?”

SOUNDBITE [English] David Cameron, British Prime Minster: “Well, Saudi Arabia is a member of the United Nations but we completely disagree with them …”

SOUNDBITE [English] Interviewer: “No, why did you want them inside the human rights …”

SOUNDBITE [English] David Cameron, British Prime Minster: “We completely disagree with them about the punishment routines about the death penalty, about those issues …”

SOUNDBITE [English] Interviewer: “But why did you deal with them? I mean they are not the right sort of people to be doing any sort of deal on human rights …”

SOUNDBITE [English] David Cameron, British Prime Minster: “We totally oppose their record on that area?”

SOUNDBITE [English] Interviewer: “Why did we do it?”

SOUNDBITE [English] David Cameron, British Prime Minster: “I said we totally oppose their record.”

SOUNDBITE [English] Interviewer: “No, why did we do it?”

SOUNDBITE [English] David Cameron, British Prime Minster: “I answered the question.”

SOUNDBITE [English] Interviewer: “That isn’t an answer. I mean we have done a horrid deal.”

Narration: The rather prolific Ibn Saud and his sons have left behind plenty of progeny who constantly jostle for power, influence and wealth but it seems that at this point they’re barking up the wrong tree.Few people are now doubtful that the kingdom is responsible for the creation of the al-Qaeda terrorist organization which gave birth to terrorist groups including Daesh. Saudi Arabia has openly supported terrorist militants trying to overthrow the Syrian government and is accused of orchestrating terrorist attacks which claims civilian lives on a daily basis across Iraq. The kingdom is also blamed for sending its troops to neighboring Bahrain to crush pro-democracy movement. Needless to say, Saudi Arabia has waged a bloody on its other neighbor country, Yemen, killing some 74 hundred people in the past ten months since the outbreak of the war. This naïve political adventurism has been a futile attempt by the Saudis to hold a wide hegemony in the Middle East. Making rash decisions about national and international affairs, the Saudis have reached the rock bottom. They have failed in Syria and Yemen and the nuclear deal between Iran and the US has weakened the Saudi position in the Middle East. Most importantly, the Saudis’ oil-fueled party has ended abruptly leaving everything in disarray.

As per The Economist, the Saudis need oil to be around $85 a barrel to finance public spending and about $60 to keep the current account in balance. The International Monetary Fund predicted 20% deficits when the price hovered around the $50 mark, and today it is around $37.

Against such a backdrop, the execution of Sheik Nimr could function as a red herring for the Saudis. It could distract public opinion from the crimes and scandals the Saudis have committed and caused in the Middle East and the problems on the way. Now that the House of Saud is losing its foothold in the region, it is an excellent time for them to stir the Sunni-Shia schism; a classic case of divide and rule. By killing a pro-democracy champion, the Saudis want to give other freedom-seekers in the kingdom a salutary lesson. The death sentence against Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr can be explained as part of a campaign by the Saudi authorities to crush all dissent. But they must remember that “blood will have blood.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian] Seyyed Ali Khamenei, Leader of the Islamic Revolution of Iran: “The Saudi authorities should know that the blood will not be in vain and will make them go to a good deal of trouble.”


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