Execution of Sheikh al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia

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Saudi Arabia executed Sheikh Baqir-al-Nimr,  a prominent Shia cleric and vocal critic of Saudi Arabian authorities on last Saturday for allegedly disobeying its ruler. His execution has evoked widespread condemnation and angry demonstrations worldwide including in US, UK, Iran, Syria, Bahrain, Kashmir etc.

Sheikh al-Nimr was most popular among youth in Eastern Saudi Arabia. In his sermons and interviews, he called upon the Saudi authorities to hold elections. He impressed upon the Saudi authorities for recognition of minority rights for which he was arrested. His arrest resulted in protest and demonstrations in al-Qatif. Subsequently he was arrested in 2006. He was allegedly beaten in the prison and afterwards released. But he continued to criticize Saudi government for suppression of fundamental rights and restoration of democratic rights. It may be mentioned that Saudi Arabia is headed by an absolute monarch from Al saud family which is in power since 1928.
Here women are not allowed to drive a car, to go outside without a male guardian. 

Sheikh Baqir-al-Nimr stated in his speech that the rights of Shia Muslims in Saudi Arabia were not respected for which he allegedly incited the people to hold demonstrations against the government. He further stated that if our rights are not respected the Shia dominated Eastern Province, where all of Saudi oil lies, will secede. He predicted the collapse of the Saudi Government if the repression continues. On 8th July 2012 Government troops arrested Sheikh al Nimr after firing a shot at Nimr’s leg and described it as exchange of gunfire. They killed a few demonstrations also and arrested a numbers of protesters which include Ali Mohammad-al-Nimr a high school student(19 years old) and nephew of Sheikh al-Nimr for participating in protest in Qatif in 2012.  Specialised Criminal Court held that Ali Mohammad -al- Nimr (now 21 years old) will be beheaded and his body will be crucified and displayed in public for 3 days.

Sheikh and his followers protested and demonstrated on the roads for a few days against the unjustified executions and started hunger strike in prison. He was ruthlessly beaten inside the prison. Various Human Rights organizations expressed concern on decaying health of Sheikh al Nimr during his hunger strike..

Sheikh al Nimr was a prominent shia cleric. He studied in Iran and Syria for about 10 years. Sheikh had allegedly criticized Nayef bin Abdul Aziz al Saud who was Crown Prince following his death in June 2012. He had allegedly stated that “people must rejoice at Nayef’s death and that “he will be eaten by worms and will suffer the torment of hell in his grave”.

The Guardian, popular paper of Britain described him as most popular Shia leader in Saudi Arabia and Syria  among youth in Oct 2011. He gained popularity after demonstration against Saudi Government followed by his arrest in 2012 He was allegedly beaten in lock up and subsequently released after several days.

In Feb 2009, an incident occurred in Madina involving difference in the religious belief at the tomb of Prophet Mohammad (Pbuh), filming of Shia women pilgrims by the religious police resulted in protest and subsequent arrest of Sheikh al-nimr. Sheikh criticized the action of the police and stated it was a discrimination against a particular sect. He threatened the Government of secession stating  “that our dignity has been taken away and if it is not restored we will call for secession. Our dignity is more precious than the unity of this land”   Subsequently a warrant of arrest was issued. He went underground and his children were taken as hostage. Security forces installed check points on roads at Awamiya but Sheikh was not arrested. The Arab Network for Human Rights international said that the authorities were persecuting  reformist leader Sheikh Nimr for his criticism of sectarian discrimination against the Shias of Saudi Arabia and for reforms and equality. Sheikh maintained that word is stronger than the power of the bullet.

In Jan 2012 he called on the authorities to stop bloodshed and predicted that the Government will be over thrown if the policy of repression continues. Police finally succeeded in intercepting the car of Sheikh al Nimr. He was subsequently arrested on the basis of instigating unrest and waging war against the Government. Sheikh Baqir’s wife died in New York when Sheikh was in prison. About 2000 people attended the funeral in Safwa on evening of 31st Aug and called for unconditional release of Sheikh Baqir by the people and all Human Rights organisations but he was not released. Ultimately on 15th  Oct 2014 Sheikh Baqir al Nimr was sentenced to death by Specialized Criminal Court for allegedly  seeking foreign meddling, disobeying its ruler and taking up arms. His sermons and interviews were produced as proof against the Sheikh.  His appeal for mercy was also rejected and ultimately he was executed on 2nd of Jan 2016. The corpses of all executed convicts including the body of Sheikh Baqir-al-Nimr were buried without informing their family contrary to international regulations. His brother Mohammad al Nimr was also arrested for tweeting information of his execution. These executions are effort of Saudi Government to crush voices of dissent seeking reform in the present set up. 

 

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