Nimr al-Nimr

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Nimr Baqr al-Nimr[1]
نمر باقر النمر or نمر باقر آل نمر
Religion Islam[1]
School Mohammad Hussaini Shirazi, Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi[1]
Sect Shia
Other names Namer Al Namer, Nemer Al Nemer
Personal
Nationality Saudi Saudi Arabia
Senior posting
Title Ayatollah
Religious career
Present post Friday Prayers leader, al-Awamiyah[2][3]
Website https://www.sknemer.com

Nimr Baqr al-Nimr (Arabic: نمر باقر النمر‎) (or Nimr Baqir al-Namr,[4] Nimr Bakir al-Nimr,[5]Nemr Baqir al-Nemr[6]) is an independent[1] Shia Sheikh in al-Awamiyah, Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia.[7] He is popular among youth[1][8] and critical of the Saudi Arabian government.[1] He claimed that he was beaten by Mabahith when arrested in 2006.[1] In 2009, he criticised Saudi authorities and suggested secession of the Eastern Province[9] if Saudi Shias' rights were not better respected.[2][7] A warrant for his arrest was issued and 35 people were arrested.[2][4] During the 2011–2012 Saudi Arabian protests, al-Nimr called for protestors to resist police bullets using "the roar of the word" rather than violence,[6][10] predicted the overthrow of the government if repression continued,[3] and was seen by The Guardian as having "taken the lead in [the] uprising".[8]

On 8 July 2012 al-Nimr was shot by police in the leg and arrested, in what police described as an exchange of gunfire.[11][12] Thousands of people protested in response in several protests[12][13] in which two men, Akbar al-Shakhouri and Mohamed al-Felfel, were killed by police bullets.[14] Al-Nimr started a hunger strike and appeared to have been tortured.[14][15][16] The Asharq Center for Human Rights expressed concern for al-Nimr's health during his hunger strike on 21 August, calling for international support to allow access by family, lawyer and human rights activists.[17]

On 15 October 2014, al-Nimr was sentenced to death by the Specialized Criminal Court for "seeking 'foreign meddling' in [Saudi Arabia], 'disobeying' its rulers and taking up arms against the security forces"[18] and his brother, Mohammad al-Nimr, was arrested on the same day for tweeting information about the death sentence.[18][19]

Religious career[edit]

Al-Nimr has been a Shia Sheikh in al-Awamiyah since 2008 or earlier.[1] He studied for about ten years in Tehran and also studied in Syria. He initially followed Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Hussaini Shirazi and as of 2008, followed Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi.[1]

As of 2008, he was independent of the two main political groups in the Eastern Province Shia community, Islahiyyah (the Shirazis) and Hezbollah Al-Hejaz (Saudi Hezbollah).[1]

Al-Nimr has been the Friday prayers leader in al-Awamiyah since 2009 or earlier.[2]

Points of view[edit]

Al-Nimr supports "something between" individual and council forms of guardianship of the Islamic Jurists as a form of government.[1] He supports Kurdish majoriy control of Iraqi Kurdistan.[1] Al-Nimr believes that Shia ayatollahs would not promote violence and "murder in the name of God". He supports "the idea of elections".[1]

Al-Nimr stated that the United States (US) "wants to humiliate the world."[1] 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".[1]

He believes that the Saudi state is "particularly reactionary" and that "agitation" is needed to influence state in general and the Saudi state in particular.[1] Al-Nimr has made statements "perceived as supporting Iran".[1] 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.[1]

Al-Nimr stated that in the case of internal conflict in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Shia would have the right to ask for international intervention in analogy to requests for foreign military intervention by Kuwaitis and Saudis to the US in the 1990–91 Gulf War and people from Darfur during the War in Darfur.[1]

Al-Nimr criticised Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, who was crown prince of Saudi Arabia, following Nayef's death in June 2012. He stated that "people must rejoice at [Nayef's] death" and that "he will be eaten by worms and will suffer the torments of Hell in his grave".[20][21][22]

Popularity[edit]

Al-Nimr was described by US diplomat Gfoeller as "gaining popularity locally" in 2008.[1] The Guardian described him as "[seeming] to have become the most popular Saudi Shia cleric among local youth" in October 2011.[8] He retained his popularity in 2012, with thousands of people participated in Qatif street demonstrations in his support following his July 2012 arrest.[12]

2004 and 2006 arrests[edit]

Al-Nimr was detained for several days in 2004.[14] He was arrested by Mabahith in 2006 and beaten during his detention. Residents of al-Awamiyah campaigned to support him and he was released[1] after several days.[14]

2009 sermon and arrest order[edit]

In February 2009, an incident occurred in Medina involving differences in Shia and Sunni customs at the tomb of Muhammad, filming of Shia women by the religious police, protests by Shia in Medina and arrests. Six children were arrested during 4–8 March for taking part in a 27 February protest in Safwa.[4]

Al-Nimr criticised the authorities' February actions in Medina and the Minister of Interior in particular for discrimination against Saudi Arabian Shia.[4][5] In a sermon, he threatened secession,[7][9] stating "Our dignity has been pawned away, and if it is not ... restored, we will call for secession. Our dignity is more precious than the unity of this land."[2]

A warrant for his arrest was issued in response. Protests took place in al-Awamiyah starting 19 March. Four people were arrested, including al-Nimr's nephew, 'Ali Ahmad al-Faraj, aged 16, who was arrested on 22 March.[4] The police started tracking al-Nimr in order to arrest him and tried to take his children hostage.[5] By 1 April, a total of 35 people had been arrested and security forces installed checkpoints on roads to al-Awamiyah. As of 1 April 2009, al-Nimr had not been arrested.[2]

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information said that the authorities were "persecuting Shia reformist Nimr Bakir al-Nimr for his criticism of policies of sectarian discrimination against the Shia in Saudi Arabia and for his call for reform and equality."[5]

2011–2014 Saudi Arabian protests[edit]

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,[6] 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".[10] 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."[6]

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.[3] He criticised a list of 23 alleged protestors published by the Ministry of Interior. The Guardian described him as having "taken the lead in [the] uprising".[8]

July 2012 arrest and hunger strike[edit]

On 8 July 2012 al-Nimr was shot by police in the leg and arrested. According to Ministry of Interior spokesperson Mansour al-Turki, policemen tried to arrest al-Nimr and colleagues who were in a car. Al-Nimr and his colleagues fired live bullets at the policemen, police shot their guns in response, al-Nimr and his colleagues attempted to escape and crashed into a police car.[11] According to al-Nimr's brother Mohammed al-Nimr, Nimr al-Nimr was arrested "while driving from a farm to his house in al-Qatif".[12]

The Saudi Press Agency stated that al-Nimr was charged with "instigating unrest".[14] Mohammed al-Nimr said that his brother "had been wanted by the Interior Ministry for a couple of months because of his political views".[12]

Thousands of people protested in response.[12] Two men, Akbar al-Shakhouri and Mohamed al-Felfel, were killed in the protest.[14] Pictures of al-Nimr "covered with what appeared to be a blood-stained white blanket" were published online by Eastern Province activists.[14] On 16 July, activist Hamza al-Hassan stated that al-Nimr had received a brief visit by his family during which officials stated that the purpose of the visit was to request al-Nimr's family to "calm the angry protestors". According to al-Hassan[15] and Press TV,[16] al-Nimr had been tortured, had bruises on his face and had broken teeth".

On 19 July, al-Nimr's family said that al-Nimr had started a hunger strike.[16] Al-Nimr's family visited him again on 22 July. They stated that he had been badly tortured, with signs of torture on his head, that he was continuing his hunger strike, and that he had weakened.[23]

Al-Nimr's wife, Muna Jabir al-Shariyavi, died in a New York hospital while he was imprisoned. Two thousand people attended the funeral in Safwa on the evening of 30/31 August, called for al-Nimr to be unconditionally freed, for all Shia and Sunni detainees to be freed, and chanted "Down with Hamad", "Bahrain Free Free, Peninsula Shield out".[13]

On 21 August, the Asharq Center for Human Rights expressed concern that al-Nimr was on the 45-th day of his hunger strike while in prison and said that he had not been charged. The Asharq Center appealed for international support for allowing access to al-Nimr by his family, lawyer and human rights activists.[17]

Trial[edit]

Amnesty International stated that apart from the charge of firing at security forces on 8 July 2012, the other charges, of "disobeying the ruler", "inciting sectarian strife" and "encouraging, leading and participating in demonstrations" were based on documentary evidence of al-Nimr's sermons and interviews. Amnesty viewed these as representing the right to free speech and that al-Nimr did not incite violence in these. Amnesty stated that witnesses whose testimonies were used during the trial did not testify in court and that al-Nimr's lawyer was not given a fair possibility to defend him.[19]

The European Saudi Society for Human Rights (ESSHR) reported details of five of al-Nimr's court appearances following the 8 July 2012 arrest. According to the ESSHR, 33 charges were laid in the first appearance, on 25 March 2013. On the 29 April 2013 court appearance, the defence was unable to respond to the charges because it did not have the details of the list of charges. On 23 December 2013, al-Nimr's lawyer said that al-Nmir was unable to respond to the charges because he did not have a pen and paper. Al-Nimr's lawyer was informed one day before the fourth appearance, on 15 April 2014. The ESSHR stated that neither al-Nimr's lawyer nor his family were informed prior to the fifth court session, on 22 April 2014.[24]

October 2014 death sentence[edit]

On 15 October 2014, al-Nimr was sentenced to death by the Specialized Criminal Court for "seeking 'foreign meddling' in [Saudi Arabia], 'disobeying' its rulers and taking up arms against the security forces".[18] Said Boumedouha of Amnesty International stated that the death sentence was "part of a campaign by the authorities in Saudi Arabia to crush all dissent, including those defending the rights of the Kingdom's Shi'a Muslim community."[19]

Nimr al-Nimr's brother, Mohammad al-Nimr, tweeted information about the death sentence[18] and was arrested on the same day.[19]

The head of Iran’s armed forces warned Saudi Arabia that it would “pay dearly” if it carried out the execution.[25]

Demonstrations against death sentence to Ayatollah Sheikh Nimar[edit]

  • Saturday November 8, 2014, exposing news of demonstration outside Downing Street (London) Amina Taylor of Press TV London conveyed the Britons request to the head of UK Government for his intervention on issue of prominent Saudi Arabian Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr who was handed the death sentence in October, 2014. [26]
  • Reportedly on 13 November, 2014 Muslims from different nationalities including Afghans, Iranians, Indians, Pakistani, Iraqis, Lebanese, gathered to protest organized in front of the United Nations against the death sentence of Sheikh Nimr (Shia Ayatollah) and raised their voice for the freedom of all political prisoners in Saudi Arabia. [27]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Gfoeller, Michael (2008-08-23). "Meeting with controversial Shi'a sheikh Nimr". WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks cable:08RIYADH1283. Archived from the original on 2012-01-23. Retrieved 2012-01-23. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Abu-Nasr, Donna (2009-04-01). "Saudi government cracks down on Shiite dissidents". The San Diego Union-Tribune/AP. Archived from the original on 2012-02-21. Retrieved 2012-02-21. 
  3. ^ a b c AGB/HGH (21 January 2012). "Saudi cleric warns Al Saud regime". Press TV. Archived from the original on 24 January 2012. Retrieved 24 January 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "Shi'a men and teenagers held incommunicado by Saudi Arabian authorities". Amnesty International. 2009-03-23. Archived from the original on 2012-02-21. Retrieved 2012-02-21. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Shia reformist Nimr Bakir al-Nimr persecuted by security forces for criticising government policies". IFEX/ANHRI. 2009-03-22. Archived from the original on 2012-02-21. Retrieved 2012-02-21. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Sheikh Nemr Refuses Use of Violence against Security Forces". Rasid News Network. 2011-10-06. Archived from the original on 2012-02-17. Retrieved 2012-02-17. 
  7. ^ a b c Laessing, Ulf; Reed Stevenson; Michael Roddy (2011-02-22). "Watching Bahrain, Saudi Shi'ites demand reforms". Thomson Reuters. Archived from the original on 2012-02-21. Retrieved 2012-02-21. 
  8. ^ a b c d Matthiesen, Toby (2012-01-23). "Saudi Arabia: the Middle East's most under-reported conflict". London: The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2012-01-23. Retrieved 2012-01-23. 
  9. ^ a b Hemeid, Salah (2009-05-07). "Bomb-for-peace". Al-Ahram Weekly. Archived from the original on 2012-02-22. Retrieved 2012-02-22. 
  10. ^ a b Abul-Samh, Rashid (2011-10-13). "Saudi Shias riot yet again for better conditions". Al-Ahram Weekly. Archived from the original on 2012-02-22. Retrieved 2012-02-22. 
  11. ^ a b "Al-Awamiyah instigator arrested". Saudi Gazette/Saudi Press Agency. 2012-07-09. Archived from the original on 2012-02-22. Retrieved 2012-02-22. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f Al Sharif, Asma; Angus McDowall; Sami Aboudi; Christopher Wilson (2012-07-08). "Saudi police arrest prominent Shi'ite Muslim cleric". Thomson Reuters. Archived from the original on 2012-07-10. Retrieved 2012-07-10. 
  13. ^ a b السلطات تمنع تشييع عقيلة آية الله النمر والآلاف يخرجون في مسيرة غاضبة (in Arabic). Awamia.net. 2012-08-01. Archived from the original on 2012-08-01. Retrieved 2012-08-01. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f g "Saudi protest crackdown leaves two dead". Al Jazeera English. 2012-07-09. Archived from the original on 2012-07-10. Retrieved 2012-07-10. 
  15. ^ a b "'Sheikh Nimr Tortured by Saudi Authorities'". Al-Manar. 2012-07-17. Archived from the original on 2012-07-18. Retrieved 2012-07-18. 
  16. ^ a b c "Saudi Arabia's jailed Sheikh Nemr goes on hunger strike". Press TV. 2012-07-19. Archived from the original on 2012-07-19. Retrieved 2012-07-19. 
  17. ^ a b "Asharq Center expresses concern for the safety of the health and humanitarian situation of Sheikh Nimr Baqr al-Nimr" (in Arabic). Asharq Center for Human Rights. 2012-08-21. Archived from the original on 2012-08-23. Retrieved 2012-08-23. 
  18. ^ a b c d "Saudi Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr 'sentenced to death'". BBC News. 2014-10-15. Archived from the original on 2014-10-15. Retrieved 2014-10-15. 
  19. ^ a b c d "Saudi Arabia: Appalling death sentence against Shi’a cleric must be quashed". Amnesty International. 2014-10-15. Archived from the original on 2014-10-15. Retrieved 2014-10-15. 
  20. ^ http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/3483.htm
  21. ^ "Prince Nayef's death makes a big difference in the Middle East". The Guardian (London). 19 June 2012. 
  22. ^ http://www.abna.ir/data.asp?lang=3&Id=322756
  23. ^ "Saudi Shia cleric Sheikh Nemr 'tortured' in jail: Family members". Press TV. 2012-07-22. Archived from the original on 2012-07-24. Retrieved 2012-07-24.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  24. ^ "Follow-up of Sheikh Al-Nemer's Prosecution: Fifth Trial, Secret.". European Saudi Society for Human Rights. 2014-04-23. Archived from the original on 2014-10-15. Retrieved 2014-10-15. 
  25. ^ The Shia in Saudi Arabia: The sword unsheathed, economist.com.
  26. ^ "Fact Corner: Britons protest Saudi death sentence for Sheikh Al Nimr". PRESS TV. 8 November 2014. Retrieved 8 December 2014. 
  27. ^ "Event Reports: Demonstration protesting Death Sentence of Sheikh Nimr in Geneva". Islamic Human Rights Commission. 17 November 2014. Retrieved 8 December 2014.