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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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$20M Saudi Cup Attracts 143 Potential Entrants

With the inaugural running of the Saudi Cup scheduled to take place on February 29 2020

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Saudi Arabia is going to organize the world's richest horse-race event. (Representational Image). Pixabay

In August 2019 it was announced that a new race at King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh had been created. But what made this particular race stand out amount its competitors was the staggering prize fund on offer. 

With the inaugural running of the Saudi Cup scheduled to take place on February 29 2020, $20 million is up for grabs. This will make it the richest race in the world, overshadowing the Pegasus World Cup Invitational which had a purse of $16m in 2018 and the Dubai World Cup which is worth $12m. 

Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia chairman Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al Faisal declared that the Saudi Cup is being designed to be long-lasting as well as lucrative. The prestigious race will also be limited to 14 invited runners. 

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This is a major coup for the Saudi’s who have been steadily trying to attract big sporting events to their country including boxer Anthony Joshua’s most recent heavy weight win against Andy Ruiz Jr. Wikimedia Commons

For those that do get the golden ticket to run in the Saudi Cup, the benefits keep coming. Not only is race entry free but the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia will pay for all shipping of horses as well as travel and accommodation for connections.  

This is a major coup for the Saudi’s who have been steadily trying to attract big sporting events to their country including boxer Anthony Joshua’s most recent heavy weight win against Andy Ruiz Jr. 

Given the money being pumped into the newly created Saudi Cup it will definitely attract a huge world wide audience. Maybe not as many as the 600 million viewers who tune in to watch the Grand National at Aintree every year but over time this new race will find its fans. And with $10 million going to the winner of the race, only the best thoroughbreds in the world will be running. 

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The prestigious race Saudi Cup will be limited to 14 invited runners. (Representational Image). Pixabay

So with the first ever Saudi Cup taking place in a matter of weeks, the race to get one of the 14 spots has already begun. A total of 143 horses have been put forward representing four continents, 16 countries and more than 60 trainers around the globe including huge industry names such as Saeed bin Suroor, Aidan O’Brien, Willie Mullins and Satish Seemar. The entrants include 32 Group or Grade 1 winners with plenty of American representation from the likes of Maximum Security, Midnight Bisou and McKinzie. 

Held four weeks after the Pegasus World Cup Invitational in Florida , it is also expected that the top three finishers in that race will also be issued invites even if they are not among the initial entrants. From there, entries will be whittled down to final fields, based on ratings allocated by former BHA senior handicapper, Phil Smith who spent most of his career being famous for handicapping the Grand National in England. 

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So who will race away with the $10M on February 29 2020? That is still unknown but as the entries get reduced over the next few weeks the picture will become a lot clearer. Will the Saudi Cup bring in the worldwide horse racing audience that it so desperately craves? Quite possibly, if only to witness history in the making as one horse wins the biggest race in the world.