Saudis to Behead Over 50, Including Top Shi’ite Cleric, as ‘Terrorists’

Executions Risk Fueling Revolt in Shi'ite Regions

Saudi Arabia is planning the latest in a series of mass executions in the next few days, looking to behead 52 detainees who they have convicted of “terrorism” related charges. Rights groups are harshly critical of the planned executions, noting three of the detainees were children when they were captured.

Perhaps the riskiest beheading of the bunch, however, would be Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a top Shi’ite cleric who was detained after a Shi’ite protest against discrimination by the Saudi government. He was sentenced to death in October of 2014.

The Saudis have struggled with Shi’ite unrest for years, and this is particularly so with the government waging an openly sectarian war against the Shi’ite Houthis in neighboring Yemen. Though Shi’ites are a minority in the country, they live in some of the most oil-rich parts of the country.

If Nimr is executed, some Shi’ites are predicting another full-scale revolt, and while Nimr’s family is urging locals not to resort to violence, there appears to be little that can be done to prevent it.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of