What is an appropriate response when a Saudi woman is beheaded for “witchcraft”?

Posted: December 15, 2011 in Political musings, Popular Culture et al
Tags: , , ,

Saudi woman beheaded - how should the West respond?

Saudi woman beheaded - how should the West respond?

I have actually deleted my first attempt at a post on this, because after due consideration I felt my views were so inflammatory they were unprintable.

Saudi women can’t drive in public? Well, quelle horreur! Western liberals faint with shock and write letters.

Well, now as ABC and Yahoo report, a Saudi woman has been beheaded after being convicted of practicing “witchcraft and sorcery,” according to the Saudi Interior Ministry, at least the second such execution for that “crime” this year.

The woman, Amina bint Abdulhalim Nassar, was executed in the northern Saudi province of al-Jawf on Monday.

A source close to the Saudi religious police told Arab newspaper al Hayat that authorities who searched Nassar’s home found a book about witchcraft, 35 veils and glass bottles full of “an unknown liquid used for sorcery” among her possessions. According to reports, authorities said Nassar claimed to be a healer and would sell a veil and three bottles for 1500 riyals, or about $400.

According to the ministry, Nassar’s death sentence was upheld by an appeals court and the Saudi Supreme Judicial Council.

Philip Luther, the interim director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program, condemned Nassar’s killing, calling it “deeply shocking.”

“The charges of ‘witchcraft and sorcery’ are not defined as crimes in Saudi Arabia and to use them to subject someone to the cruel and extreme penalty of execution is truly appalling,” Luther said.

Luther said that a charge of sorcery is often used by the Saudi government as a smokescreen under which they punish people for exercising freedom of speech.

Nassar was not the first person to be executed for alleged witchcraft by the Saudi government this year. In September, a Sudanese man was publicly decapitated with a sword in the city of Medina after he was found guilty of the same crime.

According to Amnesty International, at least 79 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia so far in 2011, more than three times as many as in 2010. The human rights group condemned the kingdom’s reliance on capital punishment.

“Where the death penalty is used, under international law it should only be applied to the most serious crimes,” Luther said.

The Saudi embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

All over the world, traditional medicine is used to treat a variety of ailments, some of it utter rubbish and a rip off, some of it harbouring the folk-wisdom of centuries. In the West, it’s been some hundreds of years since we stopped murdering weird old ladies who knew how to cure a sty or a wart, but who had also managed to offend someone in power. It’s time the Saudis did too.

Perhaps an even better reason to invest in renewable energy other than saving the planet might be that we can stop making these ugly regimes and those who run them vastly wealthy.

She was probably made to kneel down and her head was struck off with a sword. Let us hope they managed it in one blow. Can you imagine the fear she must have felt? And for what?

Are there nice, thoughtful, educated, liberal modern people in Saudi Arabia who would think this act as disgusting as I do? Yes, of course there are, many of them.

But until they … the Saudi people … demand a stop these excesses, that is not – repeat, not – the point. Such pressure as there might be to bring about reform will have to come from outside the borders of the country, and that means us.

And if we are silent, the bodies of the Amina bint Abdulhalim Nassars will continue to pile up, heads rolling away from them to lie uncared for on the bloodstained sand.

  1. Paul says:

    Barbaric to the extreme.

    Whilst I believe every nation should have the right to set and administer it’s own laws this primitive form of judgement is offensive to the extreme.

    I’m not by nature a violent person but the individual or groups that undertake such punishments should be dealt with severely but they won’t because everyone just turns a blind eye as though it’s somebody else’s problem.

    The easy thing to do would be to ostracize the country from any dealings with the civilised world but then again where would be without our oil and that is why nothing will be done of any significance.


  2. vulvox says:

    … those women are the victims of the ages.


  3. […] has had cause to draw attention to the inadequacies and brutalities of the Saudi legal system before includi…. Other commentators have also noticed what’s going on, including threatening the death […]


  4. We need to organize visible protests of this kind of barbaric activity. These crimes are indirectly committed by the government that supplies and backs the regime with all kinds of weapons of war the USA. In the end only the Saudi workers and farmers can stop this barbarism. We need to protest the sending of American Arms to these dictators who oppress their own people for oil profits.


    • I completely agree. And whilst it’s the big weapons systems that get the media attention, the arms trade in small arms in particular is a blight on humanity – the vast majority of people killed in conflicts around the world are the victims of small arms.


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