Story of Sheikh Nimr; Saudis Attempt to Muffle Voice of Freedom

Written by  Published by:Shiite News
Published in Articles
Wednesday, 28 October 2015

As the Supreme Court in Saudi Arabia upheld the death penalty for Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, all eyes are now on the prominent Shiite leader in the country’s eastern province where the minority Shiite Muslim sect continues to suffer under sectarian-motivated discrimination. But will human rights defenders rise to the occasion and take action against Riyadh for violating human rights?

Voice of Freedom

On Sunday, Nimr’s brother confirmed that the courts endorsed a death sentence issued last year against him for allegedly inciting sectarian strife and disobeying the King. The cleric has pleaded not guilty to these charges.
Sheikh Nimr is an independent cleric who is popular among the Shiites in the Eastern Province and is a staunch critic of the Saudi regime.

During the mass protests that broke out in 2011 and persisted the following year, Sheikh Nimr called on the regime in Riyadh to stop the bloodshed. At the same time, he was calling for freedom and an end to discrimination against the Shiite minority in the country. Despite his calls for an uprising, Sheikh Nimr maintained that the protests must remain peaceful as he called on demonstrators to resist police bullets using "the roar of the word.’

Sheikh Nimr said: "We do not accept [the use of firearms]. This is not our practice. We will lose it. It is not in our favour. This is our approach [use of words]. We welcome those who follow such [an] attitude…The weapon of the word is stronger than the power of lead.”

On July 8th, 2012 Nimr was arrested after being shot and wounded by Saudi police. Following his detention, thousands of supporters took to the streets to call for his release. Two civilians were killed by police bullets during the protests.

Shiites under the gun

The Shiite sect makes up less than %15 of the Saudi population and many other sects regard them as heretics and even allow their killing.

Under the Wahhabi Saudi monarchy, the Shiites have been reporting sectarian discrimination such as arbitrary arrests and detentions without fair trials.

Although al-Qatif is oil-rich, its residents have been economically and politically marginalized because of their beliefs.

Even expressing verbal opposition to the government is punishable let alone taking to the streets and showing the world the side the monarchy chooses to hide.

The case of Ali Mohammad al-Nimr has recently triggered international reactions with many calling for his pardon. Young Nimr has been sentenced to death by crucifixion and beheading for taking part in anti-regime protests when he was 17.

Reaction vs. Inaction

The Islamic Republic of Iran was quick to condemn the ruling and issued a warning against what it deemed an act of injustice.
"The execution of Sheikh Nimr would have dire consequences for Saudi Arabia," said Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian as he explained that any provocative move against the country’s citizens is not in Riyadh’s interests.
While Tehran always rushes to defend the voices of the unheard, other states refrain from vocalizing condemnation as a result to political and economic interests.

Others, specifically in the west and including human rights groups and organizations, are keen to condemn the monarchy’s crimes against humanity but fail to take action.

Amnesty International has conducted a study showing that Saudi Arabia executes more people than almost any country in the world.
Saudi Arabia is also member of the UN human rights council which has repeatedly called for an end to executions without proper trials. However, no signature has been able to halt the Saudi regime’s crimes. The silence accompanying the executions have only emboldened the authorities in Riyadh. Even its systematic killing of Yemenis in air strikes and its funding of terrorist groups have continued with impunity.

Uncertain future

"After the confirmation of Sheikh Nimr's death sentence by the Court of Appeal and then the Supreme Court, his life is in the hands of King Salman who can endorse the sentence or suspend the execution," Mohammed al-Nimr, the cleric’s brother said on Sunday.
He also warned that the killing of Nimr "could provoke reactions that we do not want,” referring to repercussions on the regional level.
Now as the fate of Sheikh Nimr is in the hands of King Salman, his future is still uncertain. Should the prominent figure be executed, however, Riyadh can expect massive protests across the country that may rekindle anti-government movements that will seek the downfall of the suppressive regime.

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