15 October 2015


Ali Mohammed al-Nimr is a citizen, however grotesque that term seems in this context, of Saudi Arabia.  During the "Arab Spring" movement, when he was 17, he took part in a demonstration supporting equal rights for that Sunni theocratic state's downtrodden Shiite minority, to which he and his family belong.  For this, he was arrested and charged with attending and encouraging a protest (he was also charged with possession of a gun, something his family denies).  While in custody he was subjected to torture and beatings severe enough that, when his mother first visited him in custody, she did not recognize him.

In the end he received a sentence consistent with the highest historic standards of religious justice:  beheading, followed by crucifixion of his corpse.  An appeal to the Saudi Arabian Supreme Court was rejected and, barring intervention by the king, the sentence could now be carried out at any time.

Perhaps stung by rising international criticism, the Saudi ambassador to the UN said, "We respectfully request the world to respect our systems and our judicial processes, and our laws and regulations, and not to interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign state."  Which, of course, is the kind of thing apartheid South Africa used to say when criticized for brutality against those it treated as second-class citizens on racial rather than religious grounds.  The ambassador also said, "The application of sharia law as far as human rights is concerned is the highest form of human rights.....We believe that we are holding ourselves to the highest standards."  I would like to comment on this statement as it applies to a sentence of beheading and crucifixion for participating in a protest, but I cannot.  My command of language is just not up to the task.

You can read about the whole thing here.  Al-Nimr's mother is calling upon President Obama to intervene with the king.  (If he does, we may never hear about it -- it might be more effective to raise the matter behind the scenes rather than in public, so that if the king saves al-Nimr he is not seen as bowing to foreign pressure.)  Right now Britain is also trying to persuade the regime to commute a sentence of 360 lashes imposed on an elderly British man in Saudi Arabia who was caught in possession of alcohol, and the case of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, sentenced to 1,000 lashes plus 10 years in prison for vague charges which boil down to questioning the regime's authority, continues to draw attention.  Many other such cases pass with less notice.

The Saudi regime is not unique, of course.  ISIS also oppresses and murders Shiites and imposes barbaric Sharî'ah punishments; the Iranian theocracy hangs homosexuals and arrests and brutalizes political opponents.  But neither of those regimes is treated as a member in good standing of the international community.  True, Saudi Arabia has more oil than ISIS or Iran, but the influence its rulers wield because of that is the influence of a meth pusher, feeding our addiction to the fossil fuels that are poisoning and overheating the planet.  If averting global warming isn't enough motivation to spur on our conversion to solar and other non-destructive energy, freeing ourselves from ignoble dependence on these barbaric thugs ought to help.

The Saudi regime is traditionally an ally of the US in a region where many elements are hostile to us.  But giving the regime a pass on its atrocities because of this is simply repeating a mistake we've made before.  The Shah of Iran was once an ally of ours too, and look how that turned out in the long run.  Does anyone really think that Arabia will be ruled by the Saudi regime for ever and ever?

When the regime is gone, we will be judged by what we did about it while it was in power.  Apartheid South Africa was once an ally of the US as well, but as progress in the rest of the world made its official racism impossible to stomach, our role shifted to increasing pressure on the country to change.  It is that, not all our earlier excuses and rationalizations for the regime, that is remembered with respect now.  We need to follow the same course with Arabia.


Blogger Ahab said...

It stuns me that such state atrocities still take place in the 21st century. I fear that the U.S. will do nothing.

15 October, 2015 04:20  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

The punishment's handed down in this country is incredible, and this is an old familiar tune. I thought it was sickening when American politicians were praising the last King that died, giving condolences, etc ... but that's what we do behind the scenes, kiss the Saudi's asses.

I know a gent here in Dallas (cant mention his name) that spent 11 years in Saudi Intelligence (he is Saudi) before coming to America, we had some really heavy conversations ... he was the first one to tell me about this case of crucifixion just recently, along with many other common practices. When I first met him, I told him something like "I notice how modern, clean the cities are over there, and you have kidz driving Mercedes, etc" ... (I thought of it being so much wealth to people) ... he told me what we dont see is the extreme poverty outside the cities. But yes, I told him I was disgusted with the relentless ass- kissing America does to their government (a government, that he describes to me the furthest thing from free or Democracy ... where some Royal clan decides who gets respect or whatever, or who gets ousted) ... but anywayz ... he agreed with me, and agreed with me, that we basically (America) are like a police/ security force for the Saudi's at OUR expense (to clean up that region over there), and do damn near whatever were told. He was also telling me something about an Embassy here in US of the Saudi's, where it is the only Embassy that is secured and protected by US Secret Service or whatever, how they are protected on every level, just like after 9/11 hundreds that were flown out of the country for their protection ... and he briefed me on how Bin Laden was treated by his own family and shit on, just a lot of crap we talk about which was interesting, but disgusting as far as the role we play kissing up to these folks. I'll shut the Hell up though ... Thanx for the read/ post Infidel.

15 October, 2015 04:36  
Blogger Jono said...

Considering the 9/11 attacks were committed by mostly Saudi nationals it was difficult to understand why there was no questioning of the Saudi rulers afterward. Until I realized how in bed we were with them on so many levels all coming down to oil and its money.Nope,we don't want to upset the Saudis.

15 October, 2015 08:35  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Ahab: Let's hope for the best. Remember, if the king suddenly commutes the sentence, Obama may well be behind it even if it's never publicly acknowledged.

Ranch: It sounds like he was giving you the real truth. Saudi Arabia as a whole is not nearly as rich as many people think. It has a lot of oil, but a fairly large population too. What the oil does buy is a lot of ass kissing by people who ought to know better.

Jono: Not only were most of the 9/11 murderers Saudis, but the whole environment in which al-Qâ'idah and the Taliban developed was nurtured by Saudi government funding of the spread of Sunni extremism (which they have also been doing in Europe). That regime has a heavy responsibility for the growth of the Islamic-terrorist phenomenon of the last few decades.

15 October, 2015 18:44  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

Are we that much better only because we jail for 20 years, (instead of beating someone within an inch of his/her life), for possession of a few ounces of marijuana? Do we think we're that much better when we've put to death innocent prisoners? Do we think we're that much better when we have the highest rate of incarceration in the civilized world?

Sure we don't put the lash to old men or behead people for breaking religious laws, but we're supposed to be the best country in the world, aren't we? If we are, what about the above, and even better question, why do states still employ the death penalty?

16 October, 2015 06:59  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Shaw: Please, don't be ridiculous. Of course marijuana laws are stupid, but flogging as it's done in Saudi Arabia is essentially death by slow torture. The US doesn't intentionally execute innocent people. Incarceration can't be compared with torture and flogging and beheading. The US doesn't make macabre displays of the corpses of executed criminals, nor does it torture and execute people for participating in protests or dissing the dominant religion.

It's comparisons like that that make people refuse to take liberals seriously. If it was Alabama instead of Saudi Arabia imposing these punishments, no liberal would be trying to minimize their barbarity or change the subject.

16 October, 2015 17:51  
Blogger Les Carpenter said...

It is posts such as this one and your response to Shaw's comment that encourage people to take liberals seriously Infidel. It is refreshing to see.

16 October, 2015 19:04  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Thanks. I'm not being down on Shaw, who is on the right side of the vast majority of issues. But knowing the Middle East as I do, it's impossible not to be horrified at what people there suffer at the hands of the tyrants.

17 October, 2015 02:25  

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