WASHINGTON, January 7, 2015 – On the very first day of 2016, Saudi Arabia executed 47 people, including Shia cleric Sheikh Nimir al-Nimir.
While we in the West were exchanging New Year gifts and cheers, tens of innocent Shia advocates were murdered.
The Saudi King cleverly took advantage of the distraction of the holiday to undertake the executions.
Sheikh Nimir was shot and arrested in 2012 after he supported peaceful uprising of Shia Muslims in Saudi Arabia who demanded equal treatment by the givernment. He publicly announced Shia should be treated based on basic human rights and dignity that Saudi Kingdom has violated for decades.
Sheikh Nimir stated in his speeches:
“In any place he rules—Bahrain, here, in Yemen, in Egypt, or in any place—the unjust ruler is hated,” <a” href=”http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/05/world/middleeast/shiite-cleric-gained-in-status-as-a-rivalry-deepened.html”>Nimr said. “Whoever defends the oppressor is his partner with him in oppression, and whoever is with the oppressed shares with him his reward from God.” He also denounced the king and his family as “tyrants,” saying: “We don’t accept al-Saud as rulers. We don’t accept them and want to remove them.” <href=”http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/01/04/461912757/who-was-the-shiite-sheikh-executed-by-saudi-arabia”>In another 2011 speech, Nimr said, “From the day I was born and to this day, I’ve never felt safe or secure in this country. We are not loyal to other countries or authorities, nor are we loyal to this country. What is this country? The regime that oppresses me? The regime that steals my money, sheds my blood, and violates my honor?”
He had been imprisoned in the Saudi prisons for eight years. He was sentenced to death in 2014, a sentencing which was postponed twice. Since his imprisonment and sentencing was not done through trial, no one knew the exact date of the execution, until Saudi officials proudly announced his execution on state TV.
There currently is no information about how or where Sheikh Nimir is going to be buried.
The fact that Saudi King feels secure in taking such an action suggests he is aware he will not face any consequences.
Saudi at UN
The United Nations, an international organization meant to protect the rights of not only people but also environment and animals, selected Saudi Faisal bin Hassan Trad of Saudi as the chair of a panel of independent experts on the UN Human Rights Council. This gives Saudi Arabia a free ticket in the UN.
It is counter-intuitive that the kingdom, with a large number of human rights violations, was nominated as independent experts on the UN Human Rights Council to oversee our rights. How can the UN elect Saudi Arabia to serve on a Council which “…is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system made up of 47 States responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe.”
Saudi and Funding Terror
Numerous investigations suggest Saudi Arabia is involved in terrorist financing. After the September 11 attacks, US investigations suggested at least some financing came from Saudi Arabia. A leaked CIA document further indicated that a Saudi bank and individuals linked to the Saudi government had been involved in financing the 9/11 terrorists.
Other sources, including The Guardian, have also reported on Saudi ties to terrorists. The Guardian calls Saudi Arabia the world’s largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiban and now ISIS can be added to the list. “Saudi recruits for al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group are often motivated by a desire to contain Shiism and stem Iranian influence in the region—strategic objectives that Saudi media perpetuates ad infinitum,” writes Toby Mathiessen.
Although the US government officially says individual donors, not the government, funds terror, it is impossible to absolve the government.
All human rights NGOs and advocates have been warning that Saudi is funding terror groups yet governments intentionally ignore that. In a meeting, I asked a presenter from State Department why does not US pressure the Saudi to stop the findings, the answer I got was that “advocates have made such claims but we could not prove that”.
Saudi is an Ally
Since 1940, the extent of Saudi oil resources had become known to US. As a result, the country has become one of the closest allies of the US. That relationship has been solidified by the large number of weapons purchased by Saudi Arabia from the United States.
The relationship is more fragile than America believes. Saudis hate Americans. In fact “Anti-Shiite (and anti-Christian and anti-Jewish) incitement is spread across the region by Saudi-based television channels” reports The Atlantic,” reports David Graham.
How Sheikh Nimir’s Execution Will Change the 2016
Sheikh Nimir’s execution fueled tension in many countries. It limited diplomatic relationships between a number of Golf countries and Iran after harsh reaction of Iranians at the Saudi Embassy in this county.
No Hajj for Iranians
Saudi and Iran have historically had tense relations. Ending diplomatic relations between the two countries will impact the ability of Iranian pilgrims to participate in the Hajj in 2016.
More pressure for Shia in Gulf Countries
Shia living in Gulf areas will face more pressure. In Bahrain, for example, the minority Sunni government will almost certainly step-up actions against the majority Shia population in an effort to avoid “uprisings” by the majority.
Lack of Trust in UN
Because of the shocking selection of the Fasel Bin Hassan as an “independent expert” on the UN Human Rights Council, and the lack of official reaction of UN to Saudi human rights violation, it makes sense for activist and even NGOs to lose trust in the UN and its mission. Official Shia rights NGO in DC wrote to UN urging them to officially condemn the execution and also question Fasel Bin Hassan in addition to reviewing and rethinking his selection at UN. The letter was signed by number of other ECOSOC statues holders. This NGO urged UN to publish the investigation inquiry in a writing form.
Lack of Trust in World’s Leaders
Shia Muslims hoped world’s leaders with public human rights advocacy claims would help them, but the reality of the Sheikh Nimir’s execution proved different. In an interview with Yahoo news, the brother of Sheikh blamed President Obama for failing to use his influence with the Saudi government to prevent Sheikh Nimir’s death. “I am sorry to say that the American government did not offer to make any efforts on this, although they knew the danger of this action and the repercussions,” Mohammed Al-Nimr whose son faces execution said.
Faulty Association of Shia to Specific Governments
What has hurted Shia population for last three decades is linking them to specific countries such as Iran and Iraq. In all countries that Shia are being oppressed, the local government accuses them as “Iranian affiliated” or “an agent of Iran that wants to take over the Middle East leadership.” In reality, Shia are only protesting because they oppression that cannot be covered up anymore. In an interview with Mustafa Akhwand, director of SRW, he was asked if Shia want to govern the countries where they are protesting. He responded, “Shia of each country only demand their basic rights to dignity and equality, as soon as their government grant them freedom of religion and equal rights, they will leave protest lines and serve their country.”
Iran was a Shia Country Before the Revolution
Iran and Saudi are known to have disagreements because one is Shia and other is anti-Shia Wahabbi. The struggle started after the Iranian Revolution and official recognition that Iran is dominated by Shia. Iran was a Shia-dominated country even before the revolution.
The fact that some countries such as Iran and Iraq claim Shia population in order to increase their own visibility in the region is not what Shia identify with.
One might conclude we live in a world where money of Saudis and political interest on western societies wins over human dignity. World powers have the capability to break political borders and unite oppressed Shia to demand their rights, but they must stand up and take the initiative to insist that Shia are allowed to live as rightful citizen in their own countries.