Saudi Arabia severs relation with Iran as US revives ties with Iran

29th Jan 2016
Saudi Arabia severs relation with Iran as US revives ties with Iran

Saudi Ara bia’s execution of Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr led to demonstrations around the world, including Karachi, Pakistan on January 3 (Photo: Sabir Mazhar/ AA)

Hamed Chapman and Abdul Adil

It seems to be no coincidence that on the eve of the US lifting sanctions against Iran, Saudi Arabia resorted to execution of leading Shia Muslim scholar and political dissident Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr along with three other Shi’a activists.

They were all accused of being involved in terrorism. However, human rights groups believe they were executed because of their non-violent activism.

Protesters in Tehran ransacked the Saudi Arabian embassy in retaliation. In turn, Riyadh recalled its Ambassador and diplomats and broke off diplomatic relations with Iran. Saudi Arabia asked other Arab and Muslim states to break off relations too. Only Bahrain and Sudan, while Kuwait recalled its ambassador and the United Arab Emirates and Qatar downgraded its ties

The 47 executions in one day in Saudi Arabia came after deaths of at least 2,236 pilgrims during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mina, most of whom were Iranian, who were mainly crushed or suffocated.

Sheikh Nimr had a long history of challenging the Saudi ruling family over discrimination against Shi’a Muslim in the Kingdom. His son, Mohammed Al-Nimr, who lives in the US, told The Muslim News that although his family hoped his father would be freed one day “deep down we did not expect him to be released.”

The Saudi regime “kills anyone who speaks out against oppression into silence,” he said. His father just “wanted justice, freedom and live in dignity. He wanted people to see what real Islam was. Islam believes in freedom, justice and peace.”

The British Government was accused of turning a ‘blind eye’ to mass executions with a total of 47 executions on the same day as Sheikh Nimr. International human rights group Reprieve described Prime Minister, David Cameron’s silence as “utterly shameful” and said he UK “must not turn a blind eye to such atrocities and must urgently appeal to the kingdom to change course”.

Asked about the Labour call for cooperation on judicial matters to be suspended with Saudi Arabia, the Prime Minister’s spokeswoman said that Cameron believed it was “important for Britain to engage with countries and have a relationship with them,” and told The Muslim News he opposes death penalty in all circumstances but refused to comment on the non violent Nimr’s execution.

The Government also left the Kingdom off a list of thirty countries to be challenged by diplomats over their continued use of the death penalty despite executing over 90 people a year.

Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, went further in siding with Saudi Arabia’s executions by describing those executed as “terrorists” despite the outcry that Sheikh Nimr was a peaceful opponent of the regime. When asked on BBC Radio Four to be more robust in condemning the regime, Hammand went as far as pointing out that the British Government had said it was “disappointed” with the killings.

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