#FreeNimr: A call for humanity to unite against tyranny

Saudi Arabia has sentenced a Muslim cleric, Sheikh Nimr, to death for speaking out against the regime and demanding basic rights and equality for minority sects.

In December 2010 the Arab world erupted with protests across several countries calling for the end to tyrannical and corrupt regimes. This was later dubbed the Arab Spring, yet little has changed on the ground, and if anything, the Middle East is more volatile than ever before.

Amongst the uprisings, was that of Qatif, the Eastern province in Saudi Arabia in February 2011. The nature of the protests was to demand the Western-backed Saudi regime for basic rights, equality for minority sects as well at the release of political prisoners.

However, the protests and rightful demands were dismissed by the Saudi regime which resorted to a sectarian discourse, and cracked down on the mostly Shia Muslim demographic of Qatif. The Saudi regime accused the protesters as being trouble-makers and manipulated by Iran and protests were violently suppressed, leaving over 18 dead as well as hundreds arrested, including women and children.

sheikh nimr shot

The arrest and death sentence of Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr

The brutal suppression by the Saudi regime resulted in a popular cleric, by the name Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr being chased, shot in the leg and arrested by regime officers. Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr is a prominent Shia Muslim cleric, who fiercely criticized the Saudi regime’s blatant sectarianism but called for peaceful and diplomatic change. Sheikh Nimr has previously been arrested for speaking out, and in 2011 became a leader for the uprising.

“The roar of the word against authorities rather than weapons… the weapon of the word is stronger than bullets, because authorities will profit from a battle of weapons”

– Ayatollah Nimr

In his detention, the Saudi regime denied him medical attention, as well as allowing any contact between him and his family. Sheikh Nimr was also tortured and placed in solitary confinement for over 700 days. Sheikh Nimr was charged for “taking up arms against the security forces” despite calling for peaceful protest and diplomatic reform.

The US-allied regime of Saudi Arabia proceeded with its conviction and in some instances, Sheikh Nimr was not even present at his own court hearings. In October 2014, Sheikh Nimr was sentenced for execution by crucifixion. Human rights group Amnesty International has voiced their concern on the case:

“The shocking death sentence against Sheikh Nimr followed by the arrest of his brother in court today illustrate the lengths Saudi Arabia will go to in their quest to stop Shia activists from defending their rights. Sheikh Nimr must be released and Saudi Arabia must end its systematic discrimination and harassment of the Shi’a community”

– Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s MENA Programme.

Subsequent to the death sentence, protests erupted in Qatif and around the world, including London, with protesters demanding that the Saudi regime reverses its decision.

Saudi's newly appointed King Salman (R) shakes hands with US President Barack Obama at Erga Palace in Riyadh on January 27, 2015. Obama landed in Saudi Arabia with his wife First Lady Michelle Obama to shore up ties with King Salman and offer condolences after the death of his predecessor Abdullah. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB        (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia’s political prisoners and deplorable human rights record

The Saudi regime, a long-standing Western and Israeli ally, has a long history of silencing any opposition, and is believed to have over 30,000 political prisoners. Political prisoners of the Saudi regime are arrested and detained by the secret police known as the ‘Mabahith’ Information on political prisoners in the Saudi regime’s secret police is highly restricted to concerned relatives and friends, as well as human rights organisations.

The Saudi regime also carries the worst human rights record in the region, and regularly carries out public beheadings. In January 2015, a video leaked on the internet showing a Saudi woman being beheaded in public in streets of the Holy City of Makkah. It is estimated the Saudi regime carries out 1 beheading every 4 days.

Bahraini protestors hold up portraits of Saudi Shiite Cleric Nimr Al Nimr during clashes with riot police following a protest in solidarity with Al Nimr, in the village of Sanabis, west of Manama, on October 15, 2014. A Saudi court sentenced prominent Shiite cleric Nimr Al-Nimr to death after convicting the anti-government protest leader of  "sedition", his brother and lawyer said. AFP PHOTO/MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH

It is the duty of every man and woman who believes in justice, equality and humanity to make a stand against the despotic Saudi regime.

Standing up to the Saudi regime’s tyranny and oppression

It is the duty of every man and woman who believes in justice, equality and humanity to make a stand against the despotic Saudi regime. Not only has the Saudi regime brutalised minorities within its own ‘Kingdom’ – it has actively destabilized the entire world through exporting extremism under the name of ‘Wahhabism’. We must demand our governments in the West to end their hypocritical ties with a regime guilty of terrorism and consistently violating human rights.

If the Saudi regime proceed with the execution of Sheikh Nimr, this will have a serious backlash which could ignite the Middle East. It is debateable whether or not the Saudi regime would make such a daring move, as some would argue it they would be shooting themselves in the foot. Sheikh Nimr’s innocence and courage represents humanity, and if the Saudi regime proceeds with its sentencing to execute Sheikh Nimr it will be guilty of killing humanity. And if we do not speak out and make a stand, we will all be guilty of standing by.

Click here to download a template to send a letter to your local political representative.

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