Shiism on trial in Saudi Arabia – dozens face potential death sentence

SHAFAQNA – Saudi Arabia confirmed on Monday that the authorities put a reported 32 people on trial, including 30 members of its own Shiite Muslim minority, on allegations of spying for Iran.

The designated nemesis of the kingdom, Iran has always been presented and portrayed by al-Saud regime as a nefarious threat for the region  – and beyond, the world.

The 32 accused, including an Iranian and an Afghan, were detained in 2013 sparking expressions of concern among Saudi Shiites who said that several were well known figures in their community and not involved in politics.

While the kingdom has many times over postulated it holds no antipathy towards religious minorities within its borders, facts on the ground paint a very different reality indeed. A violent and reactionary Wahhabist theocracy, Saudi Arabia has persecuted Shiites for over two centuries, making a point at segregating communities according to their religious affiliations – a form of latent, and covert apartheid system.

Systematic persecution

Demonized and vilified, Shia Islam children are being taught at school stands an apostasy against Islam, and all Muslims. One needs only to listen at Wahhabi and Salafi clerics’ calls for the death of all Shiites to understand exactly where it is that the kingdom stands vis a vis Shia Islam.

How can anyone forget the spite expressed by the leader of the congregation at the Grand Mosque (Masjid-ul-Haraam) in Mecca, Adel Al Kalbani, which shocked even his interviewer on BBC Arabic Television in May 2009, when he declared that all Shia Muslims were apostate, unbelievers, and as such, should be hunted down and killed?

Knowing that Al Kalbani was appointed to his position by the King, one can only surmise that the cleric was merely expressing the state’s sentiment and forthcoming policy against all Shia Muslims.  Al Kalbani also suggested that all Saudi Shiite should be forced to leave the kingdom, “as for repatriating the Shia, we can possibly discuss it.” He further stressed that no members of the Shiite community should be entitled to political representation at the Supreme Council of Ulama, even though they are citizens.

But if the kingdom has sought to persecute and mistreat Saudi Shiites within its own borders, it has also projected that hatred onto the region in order to promote division among communities in the name of control. Driven by political and territorial greed, the House of Saud has served as ground zero for anti-Shiism. The nefarious force behind the region’s sudden burst of ethnic-based violence and prejudices, as disseminated by Saudi Arabia, has sown the seeds of intolerance throughout the Islamic world, and beyond.

On April 2013, Saad Al Durihim, a Saudi cleric, posted a series of comments on Twitter in which he advocated that militias in Iraq demonstrate a more “heavy handed” approach when dealing with Shia Muslims and kill any Shiites they might encounter – women, men and children in order to instil fear in their hearts. Such statements essentially gave fanatics a carte blanche right to kill an entire community based on their ethnicity and faith, in complete and utter violation of international law.

Al Durihim’ hateful cries stand directly in violation of article 6 and 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Article 6: “Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.” Article 18: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

Al Durihim continued to categorize Shia Muslims as lesser human beings, social pariahs and undesirables in order to justify and rationalize his calls for genocide.



In Mecca, the holiest and most symbolic city of Islam, the Saudi authorities have imposed despicable sanctions and restrictions on Shia Muslims in order to not only humiliate them but force them to give up their religious traditions. During the Hajj – the pilgrimage to Mecca – one of the five pillars of Islam, a moment in every Muslim’s life which carries much symbolism and importance, Shia Muslims have been singled out and left vulnerable by the authorities and fellow pilgrims for no other reason than their determination to abide by Shia Islam principles and traditions.

Back in 2009, a 15-year old Shiite pilgrim was shot in the chest by police in Mecca and a Shia cleric was stabbed in the back by an unidentified pilgrim.

The Saudi authorities have also imposed restrictions on Shia Muslim’s visiting of Al Baki cemetery, where many members of the Prophet Mohammed’s family (PBUH) have been buried, including Imam Hassan (AS). Since the cemetery holds so much importance to the Shia community, the Saudi authorities have for no justifiable reason chosen to close the cemetery to all Shia pilgrims, advocating that such visits are contrary to the spirit of Islam. Those who have braved the ban have been beaten mercilessly by Wahhabis militants.

Shia women pilgrims have been regularly arrested while performing Haj for partaking in Quranic class studies, while other Shia men pilgrim were severely reprimanded for selling so-called “Shia memorabilia” in Mecca.

Anti-Shia campaign

Behind Saudi Arabia’s religious hatred, also stands a political desire to depose Iran as a rising regional super-power. Tensions in between Tehran and Riyadh escalated further in January when the kingdom broke off diplomatic ties following the storming of its Tehran embassy by protesters angered at Saudi Arabia’s execution of a Shiite cleric, Sheikh Mimr al-Nimr.

Riyadh’s Bureau of Public Prosecution presented the charges against the 32 on Sunday at the Specialised Criminal Court, which tries security offences, the Saudi-owned al-Arabiya channel reported.

They also included supporting protests in the Shiite-majority region of Qatif in Eastern Province, recruiting others for espionage, sending encrypted reports to Iranian intelligence via email and committing high treason against the king.

The 32 were also charged with owning banned books and other publications, al-Arabiya and other Saudi-owned media reported.

Among those arrested in 2013 were an elderly university professor, a paediatrician, a banker and two clerics. Most were from al-Ahsa, a mixed Shiite and Sunni region.

Saudi Arabia has blamed sporadic unrest among Shiites in Qatif on Iran, but has never publicly presented evidence of a direct link between those who took part in protests from 2011-2013 and Tehran, which denies any involvement.

In 2012, it said the hacking that August of the computer network of state energy producer Saudi Arabian Oil Co (Saudi Aramco) had originated from servers in other countries and some analysts pointed the finger at Iran, which also denied that.

By Catherine Shakdam for Shafaqna-


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