Western Ally Saudi Arabia Sentenced a Palestinian Poet to Death for Renouncing Islam
Ashraf Fayadh was sentenced to death for apostasy, joining a long list of dissidents facing capital punishment
Western Ally Saudi Arabia Sentenced a Palestinian Poet to Death for Renouncing Islam
By Ben Norton / salon.com

Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh was sentenced to death by a Saudi Arabian court for renouncing Islam, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

HRW Middle East researcher Adam Coogle told Reuters he has read the trial documents and it “is very clear he has been sentenced to death for apostasy.”

Fayadh was arrested by the Saudi monarchy’s religious police in 2013. In 2014, he was tried in court, and sentenced to four years in prison and 800 lashes. This verdict was appealed, and another judge ordered the ultimate punishment for Fayadh.

Reuters reports that the conviction was based on a witness who claimed he allegedly heard Fayadh cursing Islam and Saudi Arabia, as well as on a poetry book he wrote years ago.

Although an authoritarian theocratic absolute monarchy that bases its laws on an extreme interpretation of Sharia, Saudi Arabia is a close Western ally. In its fact sheet on U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia, the State Department writes:

“Saudi Arabia’s unique role in the Arab and Islamic worlds, its possession of the world’s largest reserves of oil, and its strategic location make its friendship important to the United States. The United States and Saudi Arabia share common concerns and consult closely on wide range of regional and global issues. As the region is going through a period of great transformation, the United States appreciates Saudi Arabia’s leadership in working toward a peaceful and prosperous future for the region. Saudi Arabia is also a strong partner in regional security and counterterrorism efforts, providing military, diplomatic, and financial cooperation. It works closely with U.S. law enforcement to safeguard both countries’ national security interests.”

Despite its ostensible counterterrorism work with the State Department, Saudi Arabia has been described as “the fountainhead” of Sunni Islamic extremism. Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham has argued that radical Salafi groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda are “a product of Saudi ideals, Saudi money, and Saudi organizational support.” In U.S.cables leaked by WikiLeaks, government officials admit that al-Qaeda and other extremist groups are supported by rich Saudi businessmen and even some members of the royal family.

Yet the Obama administration has done more than $100 billion in arms deals with the Saudi monarchy in just five years. Less than three days after the November 13 Paris attacks, the U.S. sold another $1.3 billion of bombs to Saudi Arabia. The Saudi regime has been using these weapons to arm extremist groups in the Middle East, including in Syria. It has also, for seven months, dropped U.S.-made bombs and banned cluster munitions on civilian areas in Yemen, where human rights organizations say it is committing egregious war crimes, and where the chaos created by the Saudi-led coalition is helping al-Qaeda and ISIS expand into new territory.

Ashraf Fayadh joins a long list of Saudi dissidents imprisoned by the monarchy for supporting secularism or democracy. In 2012, Raif Badawi, a liberal journalist and blogger, was imprisoned for “insulting Islam through electronic channels.” In an expanded verdict in 2014, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes.Badawi received his first 50 lashes publicly in January, to international outrage.

17-year-old activist Ali Mohammed al-Nimr — the nephew of a prominent dissident from Saudia Arabia’s Shia minority who was also sentenced to death — was arrested by Saudi authorities in 2012 for attending a peaceful pro-democracy protest. The young boy was allegedly tortured, before the Saudi regime ordered him to be beheaded and crucified for his activism.

Al-Nimr’s father warns that the close Western ally could execute and nail the young man to a cross “at any moment.”

The Saudi monarchy regularly executes people over drugs, even while its own princes are caught with more than 4,000 pounds of illegal drugs in foreign airports. Every four days, on average, Saudi Arabia kills someone for drug-related offenses.

Despite the Saudi regime’s well-documented, heinous human rights violations, the U.S. State Department said it “welcomed” the news that Saudi Arabia would be heading a U.N. human rights panel, noting “We’re close allies.”

Western countries see extremist and repressive Gulf monarchies like Saudi Arabia as important allies primarily because of their enormous oil reserves, even while they imprison or sentence to death anyone who challenges the regime.


Ben Norton is a politics staff writer at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.


4.0 ·
What's Next
Trending Today
Noam Chomsky Has 'Never Seen Anything Like This'
Chris Hedges · 12,620 views today · Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 3,430 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Donald Trump Is the Mirror and Hillary Clinton Is the Mask
Chris Agnos · 1,897 views today · Disclaimer: I do not support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton for president. I think the scope of the political debate is far too narrow for the kinds of actions that need to...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 1,840 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 1,707 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Mark Corske's Engines of Domination (2014)
60 min · 1,408 views today · Political power -- armed central authority, with states and war -- is it part of human nature? Is it necessary for human communities? Or is it a tool that ruling elites use to...
HyperNormalisation (2016)
161 min · 1,388 views today · We live in a time of great uncertainty and confusion. Events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control. Donald Trump, Brexit, the War in Syria, the endless...
10 Quotes From an Oglala Lakota Chief That Will Make You Question Everything About Our Society
Wisdom Pills · 878 views today · Luther Standing Bear was an Oglala Lakota Sioux Chief who, among a few rare others such as Charles Eastman, Black Elk and Gertrude Bonnin occupied the rift between the way of...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 845 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 763 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Donald and Hobbes Is Genius
Various · 641 views today · Some clever folk have been replacing precocious 6-year-old Calvin, from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips, with Donald Trump and the results are, well, take a look...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 627 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
Gil Scott-Heron Deconstructs Colonialism and Black History in His Own Unique Style
3 min · 589 views today · His-Story: I was wondering about our yesterdays, and starting searching through the rubble and to say the very least, somebody went to a hell of a lot of trouble to make sure...
Planet Earth II Could Be Best Nature Doc Ever Made
3 min · 421 views today · 10 years ago Planet Earth changed our view of the world. Now we take you closer than ever before. This is life in all its wonder. This is Planet Earth II. A decade ago, the...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 392 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
Anarchists - What We Stand For
unknown · 354 views today · Anarchism : The word “anarchy” comes from Greek and means “no rulers”. As a political philosophy, anarchism is based on the idea that organization does not require rulers—that...
For Those Who Don't Want to Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils
Peter White · 294 views today · Ranked-choice voting is catching on, and Maine might become the first state to help citizens vote for candidates they actually want.
Are You Lost in the World Like Me?
3 min · 293 views today · Animated film by Steve Cutts for 'Are You Lost In The World Like Me?', taken from These Systems Are Failing- the debut album from Moby & The Void Pacific Choir. 
World's Low-Cost Economy Built on the Backs of 46 Million Modern Day Slaves
Deirdre Fulton · 260 views today · 'Business leaders who refuse to look into the realities of their own supply chains are misguided and irresponsible.'
Life in Occupied Palestine (2009)
59 min · 236 views today · Anna Baltzer, a Jewish American, gives her eyewitness perspectives on average citizens living in occupied Palestine. Baltzer spent 5 months in the West Bank working with the...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Western Ally Saudi Arabia Sentenced a Palestinian Poet to Death for Renouncing Islam