وَلاَ تَقُولُواْ لِمَنْ يُقْتَلُ فِي سَبيلِ اللّهِ أَمْوَاتٌ بَلْ أَحْيَاء وَلَكِن لاَّ تَشْعُرُونَ
‘And call not those who are slain in the way of Allah “dead.” Nay, they are living, only ye perceive not.’ – Surah Baqara, Verse 154
Eighteen months ago, on the 2nd of January 2016, the Saudi regime beheaded a man known for his valour – Ayatollah Shaykh Nimr Baqir Al-Nimr. A man from a Shia populated district called Qatif, who courageously stood in the face of tyranny, not fearing the oppressor. Shaykh Al-Nimr may have been killed – but his legacy will live on; because that is the beauty of martyrdom. Eighteen months ago the Saudi regime killed a scholar, a human rights defender – a symbol of humanity. The so-called “kingdom” of Saudi Arabia displayed to the entire world just how barbaric they really are. In one day 44 men were executed, on charges of “inciting terrorism” – but for those who seek the truth would know that Shaykh Al-Nimr was no terrorist, he was a beacon of light amidst the darkness. He powerfully spoke out against the brutality of the regime, fearlessly calling on authorities to halt their oppression.
For decades, minorities in Saudi Arabia have been abused, silenced, and murdered. For decades powerful organisations such as the United Nations have turned a blind eye, and continue to do so. Allow me to explain further, ‘Awamiya’ is a village situated in Qatif – it is also a village that now looks like a war zone. Residents, who are mainly Shia Muslims, are targeted on a daily basis by Saudi authorities; their homes are raided, their properties are destroyed, their homes are destructed. Men, women and children are attacked and assassinated – but you seldom hear about this in the media. Access to water and electricity are stopped, roads are blocked off to prevent residents in Awamiya from travelling to and from places, and gun shots are fired aimlessly – resulting in countless deaths and injuries. This is the reality – and this is why Shaykh Al-Nimr mobilised a movement to bring an end to such oppression.
Till today, young protesters who were simply present at pro-democracy demonstrations are on death row. The nephew of Shaykh Al-Nimr, Ali Mohammed Al-Nimr has been sentenced to execution. This month, the Specialised Criminal Court of Saudi Arabia has upheld the death sentences for 14 other Shia protesters – why does the regime kill those who voice their concerns? Why does the Saudi regime silence those who want to see change? The answer is clear. The Saudi regime fears the voices of those who are aware of the brutality; you see, the Saudi regime is a kingdom built on blood, it is a regime that has oppressed minorities for centuries, and for anyone that wants an end to tyranny is killed. This is why Shaykh Al-Nimr was targeted for years, then tortured, the imprisoned, and later beheaded. Many people would remember world leaders calling on Saudi Arabia to halt the execution of Shaykh Al-Nimr, yet the regime went ahead, disregarding everyone – to declare their autonomous power, and to prove to the entire globe that human rights are not something they value.
Many do not know that Saudi Arabia does not abide by any regulations at all because if they did, activists would not be killed for protesting. Saudi Arabia has signed the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ a document that was adopted by the United Nations in 1948. Let’s take a look at the first few articles in the declaration:
‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.’
‘Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.’
‘Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.’
‘No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.’
‘No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.’
‘Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.’
The truth is, Saudi Arabia has failed to abide by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and has failed to comply with international law on a more broader level. Despite this, Saudi Arabia was elected to serve on the United Nations Human Rights Council in the same year the regime notoriously beheaded over 44 individuals; and was further appointed to the United Nation’s Women’s Rights Council. Let’s not forget that women in Saudi Arabia do not enjoy autonomy and equal status before the law. For the UN to approve of Saudi Arabia to sit on any of its platforms is diabolical and to allow Saudi Arabia to pay its way through is disgusting, and simply proves that human beings have little to no value when money and other advancements are involved.
The world we live in today is plagued with injustices, but there are ways we can find the light. Shaykh Al-Nimr was that light – his message and his values were a beacon of light to minorities in Saudi Arabia that have had their rights usurped, and also to others who face similar injustices in their lands. Shaykh Al-Nimr was a ray of light for Muslims around the world, for his stance against the Saudi regime was similar to the movement of Imam Hussain (as) against Yazid (la). Whereby truth rose against falsehood, where justice stood in the face of tyranny, where valour overshadowed fear. The principles Shaykh Al-Nimr stood by throughout his life resonated to the teachings of the Ahlulbayt (as), and this is something every single individual around the world will never forget. Equally, this should remind us all of our Islamic duties, wherever we may reside. As we witness rights being usurped globally, we must ponder upon our duties, we must ask ourselves “Are we doing enough?” and if not, why not?
When Muslim women in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are arbitrarily arrested, have their Hijab’s removed, and are sexually abused and tortured in their prison cells- is it ok to sit back silently? Do we not remember the sufferings of Lady Zaynab (sa)? Or When infants are targeted by Saudi forces, should we simply let this take place because we feel hopeless? Have we forgotten what happened to Ali Al-Asghar, the six-month old baby on the plains of Karbala?
You see, the tragedy of Karbala is a tragedy that lives on today. The times may have changed, but the oppressor remains on his throne, with no care that the Almighty God stands above him. In Saudi Arabia, Shaykh Al-Nimr and countless others rose up fearlessly against the tyrant and continue to do so. In Nigeria, it is Shaykh Ibraheem Zakzaky and the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) who remain in imminent danger. In Bahrain, it is Shaykh Isa Qassem and others – which goes to show that regardless of threats faced by tyrannical forces, there is power with those oppressed, and by the mercy of God – justice will prevail, if not in this life, then in the hereafter. We should remember the words of Shaykh Nimr:
Our blood is a small price to pay in defence of our values.
As followers of the Ahulbayt (as), and as men and women of honour, let us unite and stand by the oppressed, wherever they may be. Condemn the silence of the oppressors, and show your solidarity in any capacity. It was Shaykh Nimr that exposed the reality of the Saudi regime to the entire world, and we must continue his legacy. The light of Shaykh Nimr must live on, eternally.
Please recite Al-Fatiha for Shaheed Ayatollah Shaykh Nimr Baqir Al-Nimr, and all innocent individuals mercilessly killed by the Saudi regime.
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By Afreen Rizvi