After causing an outrage in recent weeks, about the decision to go forward with the execution of 19 year old Abdullah Al-Zahar, Saudi Arabia has breached moral boundaries even further today. In just one day , the Wahhabist regime executed 47 prisoners – including anti-government protesters like al-Zahar.
The majority of whom were therefore merely political prisoners, who were adherents to Shiite Islam. Others were affiliated with Al-Qaeda attacks that occurred in Riyadh 2014.
One of the notable victims of this series of executions was prominent Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. As a man with a significant prestige among Shiite Muslims, it has sparked outrage.
Al-Nimr was a significant voice in the 2011 riots that engulfed the Muslim world. However, he was known for advocating a more democratic resistance to the Saudi regime, unlike other insurgents in the Arab Spring. Perhaps he was aware of the perils of enacting violent methods in such an authoritarian country.
Yet, despite possessing a more moderated attitude, he was still categorised as a national threat by the Saudi regime, in the same manner that Al-Qaeda terrorists were. And owing to what reason? For the crime of being a Shiite Muslim. For there is an ongoing hostility towards Shiites from the Sunni world. And being a Saudi autocracy, the kingdom is not one to fall short. Some commentators have set the risk factor close to the danger of a Jew in Germany in the mid-1930s.
Even so, Al-Minr’s death could serve as a martyr. Protests are now rampant in several countries such as Bahrain, Pakistan, Iran, Yemen, India, and other regions. Despite being a minority in Saudi Arabia, composing around 10% of the Muslim population, a further wave of riots could be triggered amongst the Shiites of Saudi Arabia.
The cleric’s brother commented: “This action will spark anger among [Shiite] youths” in Saudi Arabia, but then affirmed “we reject violence and clashing with authorities“, said Mohammed al-Nimr.
Yet this non-violent approach only reflects the moderate views that his brother held, not the rest of the Shiite world.
Tensions have long been brewing between Saudi Arabia and its Shiite component in the Middle East: the theocratic dictatorship of Iran. Both seem desirous of regional hegemony, and both representing each side of the greater Sunni-Shia conflict. A conflict in which the battleground is mostly Syria and Iraq – as both sides have backed different insurgent groups in the ongoing national civil wars.
So it seems Saudi Arabia will provoke more aggression from the Shiite world for this.
Yet how is this to be taken from the rest of the world?
Current ruler of the absolute dictatorship of Saudi Arabia King Salman assumed his role around 11 months ago. Since then, he has been responsible for nearly 200 executions of his own civilians. More than half of the figure in 2014, and unusually high even for Saudi Arabia.
Yet the West remains silent as ever. Clearly, it does not want to threaten its disturbingly close relationship with the Saudi Kingdom. One which has been solidified over oil trade and arms sales established over the course of the 20th century.
From the rising figures, it seems the violence from the Saudi regime won’t come to an end soon either.
So while it will likely produce unrest in the country and the surrounding region in the short term, and heighten tensions between already divided sects in the Middle East, the West will likely keep clear.
Unless the global oil supply is threatened, of course.