Ali Muhammad Baqir al-Nimr, a Shi’ite Muslim activist, was only a teenager when he was arrested in the Saudi Arabian province of Qatif in 2012 whilst taking part in Arab Spring protests against the Saudi authorities over their repression of non-Sunni religious minorities. For that, he’s been condemned by the Saudi government to execution by way of beheading. In addition to the dismemberment of his head from his body, his lifeless remains will suffer the further indignity of being strung up in the manner of a public crucifixion to serve as a warning to anyone else who dares challenge the regime. According to those most knowledgeable of al-Nimr’s case, his barbaric execution could come at a moment’s notice.
The Saudi authorities are alleging that Ali al-Nimr is guilty of incitement against authorities and sowing the seeds of sectarian strife, which are ridiculous enough charges on their own, but there is one other reason he is likely being targeted that the authorities have not mentioned. That’s the fact that he is the nephew of one Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shia cleric who has also been sentenced to death by the state in October for the crime of “breaking allegiance with the ruler“, a ruling which has been decried by Shi’ite Muslims all across the world. These are but two of many controversial sentences which have occurred in the country – which claims to adhere to strict Sharia law – that have made international headlines in the past few years. Last year a liberal blogger by the name of Raif Badawi was harshly sentenced to ten years in a prison cell plus more than 1,000 lashes with a whip for supposedly “insulting Islam” on his web blog. And ever since December 1, 2014 a woman named Lujain al-Hathloul has been imprisoned for daring to commit the horrific offense of being a female and operating a vehicle at the same time.
As for the young al-Nimr, whose execution awaits, his condition is steadily worsening, according to his mother, Nusra al-Ahmed. In the words of al-Ahmed, “For other people every hour is composed of 60 minutes, but for me every hour is 60 beats of pain.” She described to The Guardian recently the pain and shock she felt at having last seen her son after his having spent so much time in captivity. According to her, his frail body bore the unmistakable marks of torture.
“When I visited my son for the first time I didn’t recognise him. I didn’t know whether this really was my son Ali or not. I could clearly see a wound on his forehead. Another wound in his nose. They disfigured it. Even his body, he was too thin.”
“[When] I started talking to him [he told me that] during the interrogation [he was] being kicked, slapped, of course his teeth fell out … For a month he was peeing blood. He said he felt like a mass of pain, his body was no more.”
Referring to the depraved violence inflicted on her son as a form of punishment straight out of “the dark ages” and “backwards in the extreme”, she has publicly pleaded for the President of the United States Barack Obama, whom she refers to as “head of this world”, to “interfere and rescue my son from harm”. It’s been over a month since she spoke those words to the President and they appear to have come to no avail.
Predictably, the same U.S. corporate media which seemingly delighted in showing clips of ISIS beheadings of western captives over and over again relegates the issue of beheading when it comes to Saudi Arabia, where it occurs on a much grander scale, to a minor footnote. On this the media is simply following the lead of the U.S. government, which has openly and hypocritically welcomed its ally Saudi Arabia recently being chosen to accede to a key position on the United Nations Human Rights Council. This, in spite of Saudi Arabia’s atrocious human rights record, which is unquestionably one of the worst in the world. When asked his opinion on the matter, the Deputy spokesperson for the U.S. State Department Mark Toner stated that the United States viewed this as a positive development. After being further prodded about his position in regards to the recent sentencing of Ali al-Nimr to beheading and crucifixion, the state department deputy spokesperson incredulously professed to have never even heard of his case before!
Such hypocrisy when it comes to the issue of human rights exposes the United States’ so-called ‘War on Terror’ as the complete fraud it really is and always has been, where states like Saudi Arabia get a ‘free pass’ to do whatever they please provided they cooperate with the U.S.’s regional objectives. As Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept masterfully points out, “the ostensible target” of the decade-and-a-half long “war on terror” is supposedly “radical, violent versions of Islam”, yet this violent radicalism “is fueled far more by the U.S.’s closest allies than any of the countries the U.S. has been fighting under the ‘War on Terror’ banner.” (*)
The sentences of al-Nimr and his uncle, along with those of Raif Badawi and Lujain al-Hathloul, are but the latest examples of the western world turning a complete blind eye to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf state atrocities, while at the same time endlessly chiding and condemning alleged rights abuses of a much lower scale when they occur in countries not aligned with the goals of western hegemony, such as Iran or China. That Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.N. is sitting on the Human Rights Council as it proceeds into the eighth month of its vicious war on Yemen is nothing short of a disgrace. And make no mistake about it, the U.S. has aided and abetted the Saudi war of terrorist aggression against Yemen from the start, providing the Saudi air force with internationally-banned cluster bombs. Yemen is the poorest country in the Arab world, a place where,
“After six months of war and the imposition of a naval blockade designed to starve the country into submission, 90% of Yemen’s population of more than 24 million are in urgent need of humanitarian aid. More than 6000 people, nearly 90% of which are civilians, are dead and most of Yemen’s already limited infrastructure is in ruins.
Everything from hospitals to wedding parties have come under attack, with one such missile attack of a wedding party on September 29 leading to the deaths of over 131 people. Deadly airstrikes on wedding events have been occurring rather frequently in the past years as part of the so-called ‘war on terror’, be they at the hands of Saudi-GCC alliance air-forces or U.S. predator drones. So far as a result of the Saudi war on Yemen there have been close to 5,000 casualties, the overwhelming amount of them having been civilians. The entire world has essentially overlooked or turned a blind eye to the plight of Yemenis.
Another issue on which Saudi Arabia has seemingly been granted immunity is on the recent stampede that occurred on the outskirts of the city of Mecca during the annual Islamic Hajj in which literally thousands of people died. According to witnesses, blame for the stampede can be placed squarely on Saudi officials and the police for having no sense of organization or proper training with large crowds. But Saudi authorities, despite announcing there would be an “investigation” into the incident, all but passed the blame onto the dead pilgrims themselves for not following instructions properly. Furthermore, in an obvious appeal to racist sensibilities, Saudi royal Prince Khaled al-Faisal accused the entire tragedy of being the fault of “some pilgrims with African nationalities” – an accusation Al Jazeera described as likely an “attempt to deflect responsibility” from the royal family. The Hajj stampede tragedy came just weeks after a giant crane crashed into a crowd of pilgrims at Mecca, killing at least 107 of them.
Despite all of the above-mentioned problems, Saudi Arabia, through its Foreign Minister Abdel al-Jubeir, still has the audacity to take aim at a United Nations proposal to have “sexual rights” included as part of its Sustainable Development Goals project, which both Saudi Arabia and the Vatican are interpreting as code for gay and lesbian rights. In defense of the country’s rejection of international standards when it comes to humanitarian law, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.N., Abdallah al-Mouallini has stated that the kingdom’s extreme interpretation of Islamic Sharia law is in fact not only protected under international law, it actually upholds the highest standards of basic human rights and dignity. In al-Mouallini’s words, outside observers should abstain from interjecting themselves into the “internal affairs of a sovereign state”, a principle which apparently does not apply to Saudi Arabia itself, as evidenced by its horrific actions in Yemen and its bankrolling of anti-Syrian takfiri rebels.
* Presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton has shown herself to be massively hypocritical when it comes to Saudi Arabia and human rights, particularly in the area of women’s rights which she claims to be a champion of. Just last month she railed against the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, for helping organize a U.N. global summit on women’s rights, calling him “shameless” and implying that he is hypocritical. Yet this is the same woman whose silence can bought when it comes to treatment of women in Saudi Arabia, where women are in many ways regarded as subhuman.