Ali Mohammed al-Nimr. Credit: International Business Times
Ali Mohammed al-Nimr was arrested by Saudi authorities at the age of 17 for participating in protests and allegedly committing firearms offenses. He was subsequently denied access to lawyers, tortured, forced to sign a confession, and despite lacking evidence of the weapons charges, the Saudi Specialized Criminal Court has sentenced him to death by crucifixion and beheading. Ali and his family’s final appeal has been dismissed. The same fate awaits Ali’s uncle, an outspoken critic of the Saudi Arabian government, Sheikh Nimr, was also arrested and tortured.
This is an all too common practice in Saudi Arabia. At least 90 people were executed (almost exclusively by public beheading) in Saudi Arabia in 2014. Despite this, the United Nations recently chose Saudi Arabia to head a UN Human Rights Council panel under some suspect conditions.
Assuming American politicians are predominantly anti-crucifixion/beheading, their public silence is disheartening. In any other context, conducting business-as-usual with any entity that beheads people multiple times a week (with the occasional crucifixion thrown in for good measure) would be, to say the least, a public relations nightmare. Diplomacy is different.
King Salman with President Obama at the White House. Sept 4, 2015. Image from Business Insider
King Salman met with President Obama in the Oval Office on September 4th. The President cited the “long standing friendship” between our two countries, and explained that “His Majesty is interested, obviously, ultimately in making sure that his people, particularly young people, have prosperity and opportunity into the future.”
The president ended his remarks on a gracious note, stating “Your Majesty, welcome, and let me once again reaffirm not only our personal friendship but the deep and abiding friendship between our two peoples.”
Are we to take President Obama at his word, or was he blowing smoke? If the latter is true, it only provides further confirmation that our country is at the mercy of Big Oil. After all, it is difficult to imagine that President Obama would invite King Salman over his house for a drink and a few laughs, were he not the president of a nation heavily dependent on foreign oil. If the former is true, then we can say unequivocally that Barack Obama is indeed a “personal friend” of a man who supports and permits the beheading and crucifixion of his citizens.
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I cannot save the young al-Nimr or his uncle, but I can only imagine how the family must feel about not only its government’s barbarism, but about our continued silence. In the meeting on the 4th in the Oval Office, King Salman said “we want to work together for world peace.” If President Obama is indeed a personal friend of the King, then he should tell the king it is time to that commitment seriously. If that does not convince him to halt their execution, perhaps he can send the King a Snap with the line “personal favor?”