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Saudi Arabia: The land of rising beheadings

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No nodding anymore

By Gaurav Sharma

A report by human rights organization Amnesty International has revealed the alarming rate at which beheadings are being carried out in the Middle-eastern kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The report claims that the Islamic nation executed 175 people last year, an expeditious rate of one beheading every day. The 102 people killed so far in 2015 puts Saudi Arabia on course to beat its 1995 record of 192 beheadings.

In total, Saudi Arabia has executed 2,208 people since 1985, of which nearly 49 percent were foreign nationals. Among those slaughtered have been children below the age of 18 and disabled persons as well.

According to the report, the surge in the government killings began in August last year and has further escalated under the rule of King Salman from January this year.

The report attributes the discrimination of law to a combination of xenophobic pressure by the Saudi government and the inability of foreigners to understand Arabic language.

Among the offences which invited the death penalty were minor drug-related accidents, other crimes not considered as ‘serious’ or even illegal such as adultery, sorcery, witchcraft and ‘apostasy’.

“The Saudi justice system which authorized the killings is deeply-flawed. Not only is the death penalty a horrendous punishment, it is particularly deplorable when applied dictatorially”, says Boumedouha, Amnesty’s acting Middle East director.

The method used to execute convicted prisoners was usually beheading but some people were also killed by a firing squad, the report noted. Also adding weight to the gruesome nature of the justice system in Saudi Arabia, is the fact that most executions were carried out in public spaces.

“The remains of those executed were displayed in public to act as a deterrent. The decapitated corpse along with the severed head were posted in a public square, typically in cases of haraba or banditry”, the report quoted.

Furthermore, the report highlighted the sentence and conviction of 15-16 year-old Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr, a teenage who was executed largely under evidence of signed confessions, something that the boy said were taken under duress.

The case of an Indonesian mother accused of killing her employer was also unearthed. Despite evidence of mental illness, Siti Zainab Binti Duhri Rupa was forced to confess in 1999. Right to trial and legal representation were denied to the woman all through her ordeal.

The report titled ‘Killing in the Name of Justice’: The Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia was compiled through interviews with families of those slayed.

Saudi Arabia now lags only behind China and Iran in the Amnesty study of the top countries in the number of executions carried out last year.

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Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women drivers; 7 more bans yet to be addressed for Saudi women

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A woman drives a car in Saudi Arabia, Oct. 22, 2013. VOA

Oct 2, 2017: The Sharia-ruled monarchy of the Middle-East, Saudi Arabia decided to lift the ban on women drivers on September 26, much to the elation of Women’s Rights Activists throughout the world. King Salman issued a royal decree on Tuesday granting Saudi women the right to drive thereby ending the kingdom’s notorious reputation of being the only country that prohibits women from driving. The law will come into effect on June 24, 2018.

While the pronouncement signifies a “positive step” towards women-empowerment, the conclusion of whether such laws can be turned into practice in a patriarchal society like Saudi Arabia can be drawn only with the unfolding of time.

Apart from relaxing the ban on women drivers, the Gulf Kingdom also terminated a series of interdicts forced upon the women. A handful of loosened bans included that women will no longer require approval from their guardian to work.

Another significant statute blessed upon women the freedom to enter the sports stadiums albeit exclusively for the Saudi National Day besides the compulsory edict of being seated only in a family section far away from single men.

The Government has also passed laws allowing girls in public schools to play sports and have access to physical education.

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UN Women political cartoon. Wikimedia

While everyone is busy celebrating women drivers in Saudi Arabia, there is still a myriad of bans inflicted on women. These are:

1. Following the divorce, Saudi women are permitted to keep their children with them only till they reach the age limit of 7years (for girls) and 9years (for boys).

2. Saudi women cannot marry and divorce without the due consent of their male guardian. The male head dominates everything in a Saudi family.

3. The women of Saudi Arabia do not have the permission to get a passport without the prior assent of their male guardian.

Also Read: A step forward: Saudi Women take up active roles in an All female Emergency Call Centre 

4. The approval of the male guardian is also required during any medical emergency. Women cannot take a voluntary decision regarding issues that concern the question of their life and death!

5. Women do not possess the right to socialize with men except for immediate family members. Consequently, all the restaurants and places of public entertainment in Saudi Arabia maintain two sections, one for the men where women cannot enter and the other for families.

6. Under Sharia laws, daughters can inherit property but only half of what is received by their male counterparts.

7. Saudi women cannot even start a work unless two male members testify about her character in a law court before she can be granted a loan or a license.

Prepared by Mohima Haque of Newsgram. Twitter @mohimahaque26

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10 Facts You Should Know About Raif Badawi, Victim Of Religious Persecution

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Facts You Should Know About Raif Badawi – A Victim Of Religious Persecution Source: Wikimedia Common

Saudi Arabia, September 22, 2017: A Saudi writer, atheist, activist and the founder of the Free Saudi Liberals website Raif Badawi, who has been a prey to brutal punishment of Saudi Arabia law, reveals his agony in a book “1000 Lashes, Because I Say What I Think”.

Badawi, through his book expressed one’s life in the autocratic Islamic state under ‘Sharia’, insights about freedom of expression, separation of religion and state, human and civil rights and tolerance.

Raif Badawi
People from Oslo protesting to Free Raif Badawi – A Victim Of Religious Persecution Source: Wikimedia Common

It was in 2012 when Badawi was taken into imprisonment in Saudi Arabia and was sentenced to 10 years torture with 1000 lashes. The reason stated for his imprisonment was his act of showing disrespect towards Islam and produced before the court charges including apostasy.

His punishment was partly enforced due to ‘parental disobedience’ when the debate over freedom of speech and Islam continued to rage. The punishment was in context to the disobedience shown towards one’s father, as follows in Saudi Arabia. Reportedly, Badawi’s father also renounced his son on television.

There are facts that left Raif Badawi to live a life of torture and trauma and you should know these.

  1. Raif Badawi had to face 50 lashes in his first session in front of the crowd gathering near the mosque in Jeddah on January 9, 2015.
  2. After his first session, the medical committee advised not to flog Raid Badawi as his wound had not healed sufficiently, because of high blood pressure. Whereas, another prison doctor objected to that and said that he is fine to take more lashes.
  3. Nevertheless, the flogs were not carried out due to some unknown reason.
  4. He was sentenced with seven years’ imprisonment and 600 lashes, but was extended to 10 years and 1000 lashes later.
  5. He was arrested against his rights to freedom of speech, expression, association and assembly. He was being suppressed with his rights to be democratic.
  6. The case was being dropped twice. The district court passed on the case to high court, saying “could not give a verdict in a case of apostasy.” Also, the higher court refused to hear the case and referred it to the lower court.
  7. His family said that they have learned of judicial attempts to have Badawi retried for apostasy and that it may end up beheading his head for renouncing his religion. Though the human rights are not sure of the claim.
  8. Raif’s wife, Ensaf Haidar was forced to leave Saudi Arabia and move to Canada along with her children after she received anonymous threats.
  9. Badawi expressed his sentiment towards living in a democratic society through his website Free Saudi Liberals until it was shut down by the Saudi authorities. He writes in one of his posts, “You have the right to express and think whatever you want as you have the right to declare what you think about it, it is your right to believe or think, have the right to love and to hate, from your right to be a liberal or Islamist.”
  10. There have been several international awards accorded to Badawi. He was a nominee for 2015 Nobel Peace Prize and for Human Rights and Democracy he was also awarded the Courage award in 2015 in Geneva Summit.

Many people around the world are showing their support to Raif Badawi through different campaigns and protest. The Canadian government also expressed him gratitude with their concern towards his wife and children.

ALSO READ: 2,384 Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) Jailed for Minor and Major Offenses

It was not just Badawi, who was victimized for raising his voice. His lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair, in July 2014 was also sentenced 15 years in prison for denouncing the human rights abuses of Saudi during his media interviews and in social media. Khair also had an organization that monitored the human rights in Saudi Arabia.

– Prepared by Abhishek Biswas of NewsGram Twitter: @Writing_Desire

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Coffee Museum: The First of its Kind in Dubai

The Coffee Museum opened its doors to public in October 2014

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coffee beans. Pixabay

Dubai, Sep 20, 2017: A popular beverage in most parts of the world, coffee is much more than just a drink in the Middle East. It is an integral part of the region’s heritage, a celebration of its culture and a dedicated coffee museum in Dubai — the first of its kind in the Middle East — stands as testimony to the region’s longstanding tryst with the drink.

Just like the traditional value that most Indians associate with “chai”, coffee is the customary drink served to visitors in most homes in the Middle East.

“It is a part of our heritage. The way we have been brought up, coffee has always occupied a vital space in our culture. So even the poor, those who cannot afford anything, will serve coffee to their guests and welcome them,” museum owner Khalid Al Mulla, a noted coffee trader and collector, told this visiting IANS correspondent.

But even before Mulla elaborated on the history of coffee and its particular significance in the Middle Eastern context, the museum was already a feast for our eyes. In a city of skyscrapers that revels in pomp and gaiety, this museum comes as some sort of relief to the souls of wanderers. It tells not only the regional but also the global history of coffee.

Also Read: A Pilgrim Smuggled Coffee Beans To India: The Intriguing History of the Development of Coffee Culture 

The museum’s shop is the first thing that catches the eye on entering this villa. Here one finds coffee mugs from several countries, personal hand grinders and other similar stuff to carry home.

Enter the museum and your are spellbound at the sight of a beautiful lady, dressed in traditional Egyptian attire serving traditional coffee and popcorn to visitors. Along with a cup of coffee prepared in authentic African style, she also told us a fable. “Marriages are not made by gods. They are made by coffee,” she proclaimed, before bursting into loud laughter.

She explained that in Turkey, marriages are often decided over coffee. When a proposal comes to the family, the girl approves it by preparing a good cup of coffee. But when she has to reject the proposal, she adds a pinch of salt.

The ground floor includes a room for Western antiques, and another for Orientalism. A dedicated corner is designed to showcase various types of coffee. There is also an Egyptian corner, which shows the history of coffee since the days of the Ottoman Empire. One of the most rare treasures in the basement, which transports you to back into time, is the “Swedish roast” dating to 1840.

Then, there is the German grinder from the World War II era and many mills that were collected from Britain, dating as far back as 1860. The museum also contains ancient toasters and old paintings that tell the history of coffee and its methods of manufacture and preparation. There is also a literature room, which displays texts related to coffee, from the eighteenth century to the present day.

The upper floor lounge includes a small coffee shop, offering coffee and snacks to visitors. What strikes you is that even the sweets offered here have a distinctive coffee flavour.

As we stroll through the museum and its distinctive rooms, Mulla, who is a mobile information bank about the cultivation of coffee and the ways of transporting and making it, elaborated on the history of what is one of the most popular drinks in the world today.

He said that the origin of coffee can be traced to the Ethiopian highlands many centuries ago. As the Legend of Kaldi has it, he said, coffee was discovered accidentally when a goat ate some unknown berries from a tree and remained alert for the rest of the night.

A drink was prepared from these berries by worshippers in the local monasteries and it helped them stay awake during the long hours of prayers. The message spread rapidly until it reached the Arabian peninsula, from where the Arabs took this newly found drink to other parts of the world.

The Coffee Museum opened its doors to public in October 2014.

(Saket Suman’s visit to Dubai was at the invitation of Dubai Tourism. He can be contacted at saket.s@ians.in)

(IANS)