Identity, Equality, Unity
Call for action: Please sign this online petition. The King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia: Release Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr immediately
The World Shia Forum (WSF) expresses its deepest concern and condemnation of brutal shooting and arrest of Saudi Arabia’s top Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr. The episode reminds us of the brutal arrest and subsequent execution of Shia Hazara leader Ayatullah Abdul Ali Mazari by the Taliban regime in 1995.
According to his family and rights groups in Qatif, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was arrested in the Sunni-Wahhabi-ruled kingdom’s eastern province on Sunday. His arrest and injury has been confirmed by the Saudi government.
Nimr’s arrest was announced earlier by his brother and a Shiite advocacy group. “The police carried out an ambush in Al-Awamiya, intercepting my brother’s car and arresting him,” Mohammed Nimr said. “On learning the news, I went to the place and found the empty car,” he added.
Activists from the Shiite group Justice and Human Rights also confirmed the arrest of Nimr, considered one of the main advocates of human rights and equality in the mainly Shiite-populated eastern province.
Most of Saudi Arabia’s estimated two million Shiites live in the east, where the vast majority of the OPEC kingpin’s huge oil reserves lie. Saudi Shiites complain of marginalisation in the kingdom by Wahhabi rulers of the country. Unlike Wahhabis who are chief sponsor of Al Qaeda, Taliban and other violent movements, Shia Muslims in general have stayed away from violence and acts of terrorism in Saudi Arabia and other countries.
Saudi Interior ministry spokesman Mansur Turki, cited by the official SPA news agency, said “one of the instigators of sedition, Nimr Baqr al-Nimr, was arrested in Al-Awamiya after being wounded while resisting the security forces.”
Speaking in November last year, after four Shiites were shot dead in Eastern province, Nimr had demanded the “release of all those detained in the protests, and all prisoners of conscience — Sunnis and Shiites.” In a speech at the funeral of one of the protesters at the time, Nimr said: “We are determined to demand our legitimate rights by peaceful means.”
In a report published in May 2012, Amnesty International said Saudi Arabia has arrested hundreds of Shiites, mainly men, but also children, since March 2011 for taking part in peaceful protests in the east.
Short video reportedly shows Shia cleric Nimer al-Nimer after being arrested in Qatif on 8 July 2012
Security forces in eastern Saudi Arabia have cracked down on a large demonstration in the eastern city of Qatif, killing two people and injuring at least 20, after a Shia leader was shot and arrested, activists said.
Hundreds of protesters were reported to have taken to the streets on Sunday after Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shia cleric and anti-government activist, was chased, shot and arrested while driving earlier in the day, human rights activist Hussain al-Alk told Al Jazeera.
Alk, a Qatif resident and staffer at the Adala Center for Human Rights, said the arrest took place at around 4pm and that organisers called for mass demonstrations after the evening prayer.
The protests were the largest in the city since November and December, when at least six demonstrators were shot and killed, Alk said. He said that he believed the government was prompted by influential Sunni Wahhabis to escalate its pressure on the Shias who are demanding equal rights and salvation from persecution.
Alk said Shias, who number at least 2 million according to the International Crisis Group, are prevented from obtaining high-ranking positions in the government and security forces.
Early reports of Nimr’s arrest, which spread online on Sunday, prompted demonstrations in the village of Awamiya, where Shias have clashed with security forces several times since early last year, said Tawfiq al-Seif, a community leader.
Activists from the Eastern Province, where most of Saudi Arabia’s Shia live, posted pictures online of the grey-bearded Nimr in a vehicle covered with what appeared to be a blood-stained white blanket and being cradled by an unidentifiable man in uniform.
A protester holds up a picture of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr during a rally at the coastal town of Qatif, against Sheikh Nimr’s arrest July 8, 2012. Sheikh Nimr, a prominent Shi’ite Muslim cleric who was wanted by the police, was detained in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province on Sunday over calls for more rights for the minority Muslim sect in the Sunni monarchy, his brother and an activist said. REUTERS/Stringer (SAUDI ARABIA – Tags: CIVIL UNREST RELIGION POLITICS)
Who is Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr?
Nimr Baqr Al-Nimr (or Nimr Baqir al-Namr) is an independent Shia Sheikh in al-Awamiyah, Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia.
He is a key proponent of equal rights for Shia and Sunni (Hanafi, Sufi) Muslims of Saudi Arabia who currently are treated as second class citizens in the Salafi-Wahhabi dominated Saudi Kingdom.
He is also a key proponent of women’s rights and minority rights in Saudi Arabia.
Because of his progressive, pro-equality, pro-human rights views, he is very popular among youth in Eastern Province, a Shia majority area. Because of his demands for equal rights for Shias, he has been facing Saudi government’s wrath. He was arrested and beaten by Mabahith in 2006. In 2009, he criticised Saudi authorities due to their brutal treatment of Shia and Sufi Muslims and suggested secession of the Eastern Province if Saudi Shias’ rights were not better respected. A warrant for his arrest was issued and 35 people were arrested. During the 2011–2012 Saudi Arabian protests, al-Nimr called for protesters to resist police bullets using “the roar of the word” rather than violence.
In August 2008, he said that he sees US citizens as a natural ally of Shia as the thinking of both US citizens and Shia is “based on justice and liberty”. He believes that the Saudi government is “particularly reactionary” and that “agitation” is needed to influence governments in general and the Saudi government in particular. In August 2008, he stated that he believes that Iran and other states outside of Saudi Arabia act mainly out of self-interest, not out of religious solidarity.
Al-Nimr was described by US diplomat Gfoeller as “gaining popularity locally” in 2008 and by The Guardian as “[seeming] to have become the most popular Saudi Shia cleric among local youth” in October 2011.
In October 2011, during the 2011–2012 Saudi Arabian protests, al-Nimr said that young people protesting in response to the arrests of two al-Awamiyah septuagenarians were provoked by police firing at them with live ammunition. On 4 October, he called for calm, stating, “The [Saudi] authorities depend on bullets … and killing and imprisonment. We must depend on the roar of the word, on the words of justice”. He explained further, “We do not accept [the use of firearms]. This is not our practice. We will lose it. It is not in our favour. This is our approach [use of words]. We welcome those who follow such [an] attitude. Nonetheless, we cannot enforce our methodology on those who want to pursue different approaches [and] do not commit to ours. The weapon of the word is stronger than the power of lead.”
In January 2012, he called on authorities to “stop bloodshed”, predicting that the government would be overthrown if it continued its “month-long crackdown” against protestors. He criticised a list of 23 alleged protestors published by the Ministry of Interior.
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