While the West uses the crimes of ISIS to justify bombing Iraq, Western-backed Saudi Arabia is immune from criticism. But Saudi Arabia—the recipient of Canadian weapons—armed sectarian groups that led to the formation of ISIS, and now the Saudi dictatorship threatens to behead another pro-democracy protester.
Like other parts of the Arab region, pro-democracy and human rights activists and protestors have been flooding the streets of Qatif and other parts of the Eastern Province in Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the Arab Spring. Shiekh Nemer Baqir Al-Nemer was a pro-democracy progressive faith leader who inspired the masses in Saudi Arabia to participate in peaceful demonstrations and protests. He is well known to have repeatedly said “the roar of word is more powerful that the authorities’ bullets.” Hundreds were killed, arrested, tortured and received severe cruel sentences, including beheading and crucifixion. One of the arrested activists is Al-Nemer’s nephew, Ali Al-Nemer, who was arrested when he was 17 and subjected to torture.
Sheikh Al Nemer
Shiekh Al Nemer was arbitrarily arrested in July 2012 after Saudi forces shot him. While injured, he was subjected to solitary confinement and ill treatment. According to Amnesty International, treatment for his right leg has been denied. It has remained paralyzed since his arrest. Access to his family members and lawyer has been irregular.
He was subjected to an unfair secret trial that violates the international human rights standards. Although Al-Nemer’s trial violates The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Saudi Arabia holds a seat at UN Human Rights Council. Al-Nemer was arrested and sentenced solely for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
Charges against him include disobeying the ruler, and inciting sectarianism and violence. Reading Al-Nemer’s articles and listening to his speeches, it is evident that he has never incited sectarianism and has always urged protestors to be peaceful despite the authorities’ violent crackdown and systematic oppression. In addition to that, he has been demanding the release of all prisoners of conscience whether Shia or Sunni, without discrimination.
Sentence and protests
October 15 was a dark day for Al Nemer’s supporters and to pro-democracy protestors and activists in Saudi Arabia. Sentencing a peaceful pro-democracy leader to death is an attack on democracy, freedom and peace.
The judge sentenced Al-Nemer to death in the form of beheading. Earlier, the prosecutor demanded a death sentence in the form of crucifixion. The sentence was then changed to beheading, which also reflects the inhumanity and the systematic violations exercised by the Saudi authorities on pro-democracy and human rights activists and leaders. On the day of Al-Nemer’s sentence, his brother Mohamed Baqir Al Nemer was arrested too. He remains detained.
Since the sentence of Al-Nemer, protestors in his hometown, Awamiya, have tirelessly been organizing and participating in peaceful protests and rallies. Their demands are basic human rights demands: the release of all prisoners of conscience and an end to the authorities’ oppression and repression. Although the protests have started in Awamiya, supporters from around the world have been organizing peaceful rallies in front of the Saudi embassies and consulates.
Saudi Arabia: the West’s counter-revolutionary force
Crackdown on peaceful protestors, arbitrary arrests and human rights violations are not new events in Saudi Arabia. During the Arab Spring protests in the Eastern Province, activists were also demanding the release of the Forgotten Prisoners who have been detained in Saudi prisons since the 1990s.
The Western backed monarchy is an example of an authoritarian regime that’s immune to international criticism and scrutiny due to political and economic imperialists’ interests in the region. For instance beheadings and crucifixions would have been condemned internationally, if they weren’t in Saudi Arabia. While we witness an international condemnation towards Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) grave human rights violations that include beheadings, the Saudi government exercises such inhumane practices while the international community is shackled by the code of silence. Hypocritically, the Saudi government has joined the Western forces in combating ISIS.
Saudi Arabia has not only attacked the opposition and the pro-democracy activists at home, but also participated in the crackdown on peaceful protestors in Bahrain, home to US’s Fifth Fleet. In addition to that, it has contributed in arming the counter-revolutionary forces in Syria that has ultimately resulted in the formation of ISIS and other extremist groups. Shockingly, Saudi Arabia is one of Canada’s priority markets in the Middle East along with Bahrain.
Solidarity with Al-Nemer and other peaceful activists in Saudi Arabia means demanding an end to the code of silence and the imperialist support to the Saudi monarchy. Without Western arms deals with the Saudi government, the monarchy would be weakened.