Turmoil in Eastern Saudi Arabia
The January 2 execution of Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, a popular Shi’ite cleric from Awamiya in eastern Saudi Arabia, set off angry protests worldwide. From Michigan to London, and from Bahrain to Kashmir, Shi’ite Muslims took to the streets on several continents to condemn the Saudi authorities who beheaded al-Nimr after finding the cleric guilty of “breaking allegiance with the ruler” and a handful of other alleged crimes.
Al-Nimr—like many Saudi Shi’ites—refused to recognize Al Saud’s legitimacy. Not only did al-Nimr speak out against Saudi rulers, whom he saw as corrupt and tyrannical, but the cleric also railed against Riyadh’s regional allies such as Bahrain, Egypt, and Yemen. Al-Nimr advocated nonviolent democratic reform, women’s rights, and an end to discrimination against Saudi Shi’ites in Saudi Arabia. Since his execution, Shi’ite protests have resumed in the kingdom’s Eastern Province (EP).