SHAFAQNA – It was King Salman who back in May 2015 told the world that “The Saudi Arabian government guarantees freedom of expression and opposes discrimination.” Addressing Bandar Al-Aiban, president of the Human Rights Commission (HRC), Mufleh Al-Qahtani, president of the National Society for Human Rights, and other senior officials during their visit to Riyadh, the Saudi monarch continued confident: “The pillars of this state are built on Islamic law that calls for the protection of human rights; and governance in the country is based on justice, consultation and equality.”
While such words would carry undeniable dignity if they were indeed enacted on the ground, they ring hypocritical in the mouth of those leaders who continue to argue justice while oppressing a people.
Under the reactionary and unforgiving rule of al-Saud royals, justice, civil liberties and equality before the law are but distant mirages … Still, Saudis are determined to dream and cry freedom; for in doing so, it is their faith in God’s commands they are tightly holding onto.
On January 2sd, 2016 Riyadh ambitioned to extinguish one of the kingdom’s brightest light – that os Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.
A prominent Shia cleric, a man of letter and a fervent pro-democracy advocate, Sheikh al-Nimr was above all a man of peace and tolerance. A voice for the oppressed, a teacher for his community and a bridge for all religious minorities, Sheikh al-Nimr came to symbolize resistance against tyranny across not just Saudi Arabia, but the world.
There is such figure in history which command attention for their voices, and their fight is service of humanity. Sheikh al-Nimr was such a man. Beyond his absolute devotion to Shia Islam, and the principles it enounces, it is his love for Justice and Freedom he will be remembered for.
Contrary to the vile propaganda spewed by Riyadh, Sheikh al-Nimr never once called up for violence, or armed retribution against the regime. What he preached, what he, himself demonstrated was peaceful resistance.
In keeping with Islam’s Imams, in keeping with the teachings of the holy Prophet Muhammad, Sheikh al-Nimr devoted himself to the Truth – offering his counsel, and his reproach when officials strayed from the path.
His words were not of violence, hate or division – his teachings were of unity, acceptance and solidarity. And if indeed he was a dissident, it is only because he could not accept the injustices which were carried against his fellow men.
Sheikh al-Nimr had no other ambition but to see his people live with dignity in their lands – a life spent in resistance in the service of others stand testimony to the true quality of his character.
Such is the man, the Saudi regime stroke down with the swing of a sword.
Such is the man, the Saudi regime imagined it could defeat, and through him, strike fear at the heart of all democracy-aspiring nations.
But if the world cry today for the loss of a martyr, Sheikh al-Nimr’s message remains forever embedded in the hearts of those for whom Justice and Freedom are worth fighting for and standing for. There are fights in life which are worthy not because victory is easy, but because they are true.
Silence before tyranny is complicity!
With over 30,000 political prisoners languishing in prison, Saudi Arabia has become the epitome of oppression.
And while the world community has withdrawn behind its walls of silence, voices have risen throughout, demanding that justice be served, calling for Saudi Arabia to face to the abominations it has committed in the name of greed and political manipulation.
Dr John Andrew Morrow, a prominent Canadian Islamic scholar and author of The Covenants Of the Prophet Muhammad With The Christians Of The World, condemned the killing of Sheikh al-Nimr in the strongest of terms. He postulated:”The killing of non-violent political dissidents is prohibited in Islam. The execution of Shaykh al-Nimr represents another nail in the coffin of Saudi despotism. A nation that kills its own citizens, merely because they voice socio-political, economic and religious concerns, lacks all legitimacy, and has no place in the community of civilized nations that uphold civil and human rights.”
The self-proclaimed custodian of the two Holy Mosques, Saudi Arabia is also the head of the UN Human Rights Council – both positions require for the kingdom to stand above reproach. Yet, before the ignominy its officials have committed, few have dared formulate any criticism.
Arguably one of the fiercest and most vocal critics of the Saudi monarchy, Sheikh al-Nimr was condemned to death in October 2014 on charges of sedition. His crime: the denunciation of Saudi Arabia’s brutal and reactionary theocratic system.
Because he rose a tower against political illegitimacy and religious oppression, because his voice spoke a truth the regime could not risk getting out, Sheikh al-Nimr’s life was unlawfully claimed – branded to suffer the wrath of a system that only tolerates absolute submission.
But there can be no justice in deceit, and no legitimacy in political manipulation.
Beyond death, Sheikh al-Nimr will rise still a model for interfaith tolerance, social justice and political self-determination. Born in a country that strictly segregates on the basis of one’s social standing, religious affiliation and even gender, Sheikh al-Nimr has become both a symbol of resistance and a hope that peaceful change in the kingdom is still possible.
When political power can only be asserted through the spilling of blood and gruesome displays of violence, when legitimacy can only be gained through vicious oppression, it is often such regimes that are on the brink of collapse. Change is inherent to the reality of our universe, and not even the Kingdom will be able to weather that storm once it hits …
Rights organizations across the board have already expressed their most profound disgust before the brutal execution of Sheikh al-Nimr.
Human Rights groups in Bahrain and Europe have joined Reprieve and Human Rights Watch in condemning the executions, describing them as “the most serious crime imaginable”.
The European Centre for Democracy & Human Rights (ECDHR), Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) released a joint statement which says they condemn the Saudi government’s actions in the “strongest and most absolute terms”. It also calls on the international community “to intervene in order to prevent any further bloodshed”.
Husain Abdulla, the executive director of ADHRB, decried: “The execution of Nimr is not only the most serious crime imaginable against a single person – it is also a crime against human rights, democracy, and human dignity … Saudi Arabia was able to commit the crime of executing Nimr because it felt the international community its silent on its gross human rights violations.”
Political cowardice was what allowed for the murder of a righteous cleric. It is such cowardice and social apathy Sheikh al-Nimr hoped to remedy. Because he cared for his people than he did his safety his heart was made silent.
But today, his courage echoes louder than any treachery! Today his name has been stamped onto the millions of life his words of hope touched.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei offered this warning at a meeting with officials on December 29, 2015: “The death of virtue is the big problem of humanity. Virtues are being suppressed by the instruments of materialistic powers. Justice, human values and morality are being suppressed, human blood is constantly being shed at the hands of unscrupulous powers and some nations die of hunger because of being looted by powers. This is the condition of the world in the present time.”
It is those powers Sheikh al-Nimr died denouncing … let’s honor his sacrifice, his life and his legacy by speaking true.
I will conclude with those words Sheikh al-Nimr wrote his beloved mother: “At the end, I leave you and all people to God who is the best guardian and protector.”
By Catherine Shakdam – This article appeared first on Ayatollah Khamenei’s website