Humanitarian groups rally at Saudi Embassy against death sentences for peaceful protestors

Nov 13, 2015, 09:41 ET from Universal Muslim Association of America

WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A group of humanitarian organizations, non-profits, and religious congregations will hold a rally today in front of the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia to protest the death sentences assigned to Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr and his nephew Ali al-Nimr for their participation in peaceful protests. Thousands expected to protest at Saudi embassy and the White House against these death sentences and against the Saudi Arabian government's discriminatory practices targeting Shia Muslims.

"Saudi Arabia's harsh treatment of a prominent Shia cleric [Al-Nimr] is only adding to the existing sectarian discord and unrest. Saudi Arabia's path to stability in the Eastern Province lies in ending systematic discrimination against Shia citizens, not in death sentences," said Human Rights Watch Deputy Middle East Director Joe Stork.

Speaking in one voice, the groups Muslims 4 Peace, the Universal Muslim Association of America (UMAA), Imamia Medics International (IMI), the Baqee Group, the Shia Public Affairs Committee (ShiaPAC), and StandWithDignity state "We condemn the sentences of death and death by crucifixion of human rights activists Sheikh al-Nimr and his nephew Ali al-Nimr of Saudi Arabia."

Recently, Ali al-Nimr, who was a minor at the time of his participation in Saudi peace rallies, was sentenced to death by crucifixion. This sentence has been condemned by United Nations experts, human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, and politicians around the world, including British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Shia Muslims in Saudi Arabia face discrimination in seeking education or government employment and are spoken of disparagingly in textbooks and by various government officials and state-funded clerics.

Native Saudi Shia Muslim also face restrictions on performing worship services, setting up places of worship and commemorating Shia holidays. The Saudi regions of Qatif and al-Ahsa, another region with a large Shia population, receive less state funding than other communities of equivalent size.

According to a 2009 Human Rights Watch report, Shia Muslim citizens in Saudi Arabia must deal with "systematic discrimination in religion, education, justice, and employment." Shia Muslims are not allowed to offer prayers at Janat al-Baqee, an important historical graveyard in Medina where members of Prophet Mohammad's family are buried. Instead, there are constant threats by the government to demolish this graveyard for sectarian reasons.


SOURCE Universal Muslim Association of America