No one knows or can predict the possible repercussions of the death sentence passed against Saudi cleric Nimr al-Nimr, which was first reported on Twitter by his brother Mohammed.
According to Mohammed’s tweet, a Saudi court upheld the ruling issued against al-Nimr and ended all proceedings that took place during the 13 sessions of his trial.
The news took Twitter by storm and became a trending topic that reflected the sharp divisions between the supporters and the opponents of the verdict, which was also seen as having sectarian implications.
Authorities in Saudi Arabia gave the verdict a sectarian dimension under the guise of the law that targeted the spiritual leader of an important element of the Saudi people.
Activists took to social media to call for a solidarity campaign with al-Nimr, while others held the international community responsible for his ordeal and discussed the violations committed by the Saudi authorities in issuing the verdict.
Many pages were created on social media sites with titles like, “Execute us with al-Nimr,” and “We give our soul to al-Nimr” as bloggers turned to the web to express their opinion.
Al-Nimr’s sympathizers took it upon themselves to spread his message and his call for freedom and democracy. Many pages were created on social media sites with titles like, “Execute us with al-Nimr,” and “We give our soul to al-Nimr” as bloggers turned to the web to express their opinion.
On the other hand, online “clashes” erupted between al-Nimr’s sympathizers and supporters of his execution, with one of the latter posting that “the criminal court sentence closed a page that spread sedition,” while another said Nimr “deserves the sentence of the white sword of Abdullah al-Bishi,” the Saudi chief executioner.
A fierce war of words broke out on social media sites on October 15 with activists posting photos and evidence supporting their views about the case, which was transformed from an attempt to keep the death sentence afloat to a matter of public opinion, and that of stolen rights that Nimr had been calling to restore to a marginalized region in the “oil kingdom.”
A large number of authors and intellectuals denounced the verdict, taking a clear political position against it.
Saudi activist Hamza al-Hassan said, “It will be a long battle against the tyranny of the House of Saud. The road to freedom and dignity comes with a price, and the free do not accept any lingering or debasing; they do not kneel to their executioners and do not make peace with them.”
In a tweet, Lebanese writer As’ad AbuKhalil said, “Silence in the Arab media about the unjust ruling against Sheikh al-Nimr reveals the bigotry of fake Arab liberalism.”
For her part, activist Chaza al-Jabr said, “Those who are happy with the ruling – other than the slaves – are acting as if asking to kill every Sunni reformist who stands against oppression, tyranny and domination.”
Activist Ali al-Dubaysi warned that Nimr’s arrest “further exacerbated the Saudi human rights record, and every day he spends behind bars further proves that the authorities are not serious about respecting human rights.”
Activists and bloggers posted photos of Nimr along with a number of protesters who were killed by the Saudi security forces like Khaled al-Labad. The police did not make any progress in the investigation to reveal the truth behind their death and only relied on the authorities’ story that considered them “terrorists” whose names were on official lists used to hunt them down.
However, local residents accused the authorities of executing the protesters in cold blood in front of their homes and families.
The rage displayed on social media during the day, after the announcement of the death sentence, was translated into reality on the ground by a group of young men calling themselves the Resali Youth Movement.
They called for angry protests under the slogan, “Oh state of the tyrants” that took to the streets in al-Awamiyah, Nimr’s hometown, and to the middle of al-Qatif, located in the eastern part of the kingdom, which sympathizes with the cleric’s positions.
The protesters insisted on calling the people and the clerics of al-Qatif and al-Ihsa’a to stand together against the verdict.
In fact, Nimr’s trial sparked numerous protests. Most of them led to bloody clashes with the security forces, and during which 20 people were killed and dozens injured or arrested. Ever since February 2011, the region has been under heavy security restrictions, practically transforming it into a large military barrack.
A security solution may seem unavailing in a region that Saudi Arabia relies on to provide the world with oil for cheap prices. Hence, political and security reactions shall be measured amid the persistence of angry protests, until Nimr’s fate and that of the rest of prisoners in Saudi jails is revealed.
A day may come when Saudi and Bahraini activists will reshape their resistance against marginalization and arbitrary verdicts that target a small sect, which today has a large influence in the region.
And although Nimr himself had stated in an interview with the BBC that “the roar of a word is mightier than the sound of bullets,” some are concerned that the peaceful revolution will be abandoned amid a swift reaction that may involve violence, as the people in the oil rich eastern region continue to feel discriminated against.
Some activists went as far as saying they will “wait for the right opportunity to form martyrdom groups that would strike the kingdom’s interests everywhere after the execution of al-Nimr,” something that the cleric has always opposed.