Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

36 hours left in this Mid-Year Campaign. This is our hour of need.
If you value independent journalism, please support Common Dreams.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Shiite protesters carry posters of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr during a demonstration outside the Saudi embassy in Sana'a on October 18, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

Outrage Follows Saudi Arabia's Execution of Nearly 50 Prisoners

Deirdre Fulton

Saudi Arabia—recently chosen to to head a key United Nations human rights panel—on Saturday executed 47 people convicted of "terrorism," including at least four convicted of offenses related to political protest.

According to Reuters, the executions took place in 12 cities in Saudi Arabia, with four prisons using firing squads and the others beheading.

Among those killed was prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, whom the Guardian reports "had called for pro-democracy demonstrations and whose arrest in 2012 sparked protests in which three people died."

"Nimr," the Guardian added, "had long been regarded as the most vocal Shia leader in the eastern Saudi province of Qatif, willing to publicly criticise the ruling al-Saud family and call for elections. He was, however, careful to avoid calling for violence, analysts say."

The Associated Press noted that "The execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr is expected to deepen discontent among Saudi Arabia's Shiite minority and heighten sectarian tensions across the region."

The mass execution comes on the heels of a deadly year that saw Saudi Arabia execute more than 150 people, "many of them for non-violent offenses," said Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at international human rights organization Reprieve.

"Today’s appalling news, with nearly 50 executed in a single day, suggests 2016 could be even worse," Foa said on Saturday. "Alarmingly, the Saudi Government is continuing to target those who have called for domestic reform in the kingdom, executing at least four of them today."

What's more, she added, "there are now real concerns that those protesters sentenced to death as children could be next in line to face the swordsman’s blade." According to Reprieve, the list of people executed did not include the names of a number of people sentenced to death as children who are still facing execution—including Ali al Nimr, Sheikh Nimr's nephew; Dawoud al Marhoon; and Abdullah al Zaher, who were also sentenced to death over their alleged involvement in the 2012 anti-government protests, despite having been aged 17, 17, and 15 respectively at the time.

"Saudi Arabia’s allies—including the U.S. and UK—must not turn a blind eye to such atrocities and must urgently appeal to the Kingdom to change course," Foa concluded.

Many echoed that call on social media, highlighting the apparent hypocrisy of Saudi Arabia's seat on the UN Human Rights Council.

Meanwhile, the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition that has been dropping bombs in Yemen for more than nine months, killing scores of civilians and destroying critical infrastructure, announced Saturday the end of a ceasefire that had been in place since December 15. 


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

'We Will Fight! We Will Win!': Nearly 200 Abortion Rights Defenders Arrested in DC

"If people don't see the rage," said one woman at the protest, "nothing changes."

Jon Queally ·


Naomi Klein: The US Is in the Midst of a 'Shock-and-Awe Judicial Coup'

"The rolling judicial coup coming from this court is by no means over," warned the author of "The Shock Doctrine."

Jake Johnson ·


Markey, Bowman Join Climate Coalition in Urging SCOTUS Expansion

"We cannot sit idly by," said Markey, "as extremists on the Supreme Court eviscerate the authorities that the government has had for decades to combat climate change and reduce pollution."

Brett Wilkins ·


Ocasio-Cortez Says US 'Witnessing a Judicial Coup in Process'

"It is our duty to check the Court's gross overreach of power in violating people's inalienable rights and seizing for itself the powers of Congress and the president."

Brett Wilkins ·


Critics Say Biden Drilling Bonanza 'Won't Lower Gas Prices' But 'Will Worsen Climate Crisis'

"President Biden's massive public lands giveaway in the face of utter climate catastrophe is just the latest sign that his climate commitments are mere rhetoric," said one campaigner.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo