Women beheaded in Saudi execution frenzy

SAUDI ARABIA has embarked on another orgy of head-chopping, decapitating a total of 55 people so far this year - almost double the executions carried out in 1998 - including two women who were beheaded in public for allegedly trafficking in drugs.

Hawa Faruk and Aisha Saada Kassem had their heads cut off with swords - after their scarves were torn from their heads by their executioners - in Riyadh and Jeddah. Both women were Nigerian; Ms Faruk was decapitated on 28 May and Ms Kassem was executed before a large crowd outside a mosque just a week ago.

Needless to say, there have been no words of condemnation in the West, let alone in the United States, whose troops continue to be based in the kingdom and whose oil investments in Saudi Arabia render even the slightest criticism impossible. The women - like the 53 male victims - were tried in semi-secret courts. An unusually large number of beheadings this year were carried out on foreigners: they included 10 Pakistanis for drug offences, five Nigerians (four for alleged drug offences, one for armed robbery), three Indians (two for drug-related crimes, one for rape), two Afghans, two Indonesians and a Syrian.

As usual, the Saudis announced each decapitation with a short paragraph in the government-controlled press. Aisha Kassem's execution - "with a sabre", it was gruesomely announced - took place after she was convicted of "smuggling cocaine hidden in her intestines".

Up to five years ago, executions of women took place in Saudi prisons, sometimes by firing squad, but since 1996, they have been in public, often after Friday prayers and in front of hundreds of men. In 1997, they executed three women - Zahra Issa Ali and Bana Mohamed Adam, both Nigerians accused of drug trafficking, and Soleha Anam Kadiran, an Indonesian convicted of murdering a Saudi woman.

A year earlier, a Saudi woman, Dhafira bint Said bin Mohamed al-Salim, was beheaded for killing her husband, and two Indonesian women were decapitated for alleged drugs trafficking. In 1995, a Saudi mother and daughter were executed together - their scarves again torn from their heads before decapitation.

The worst year for executions in Saudi Arabia was 1995, when 192 condemned, seven of them women, went beneath the sword. There were 96 beheadings in 1996, 122 the following year and 29 in 1998.

The human rights organisation Amnesty International regularly condemns Saudi Arabia for its executions and for the mockery of a trial which most of the victims receive. The hearings, according to Amnesty, do not accord with the basic norms of international law and are often heard in secret. Visitors to Saudi Arabia have said that women convicted of drugs offences are sometimes rape victims who are judicially murdered to prevent them identifying their assailant.

Saudi Arabia regularly justifies these bloody scenes by quoting from Koranic law, by reminding foreigners of Saudi tradition and by insisting upon the integrity and humanity of its courts. In one case last year, a Saudi executioner had raised his sword over a condemned man's head when the father of the boy he was accused of murdering stepped forward to pardon the prisoner. The executioner lowered his sword. But death sentences are rarely commuted - unless, of course, the prisoner happens to be a British nurse.

Death by the blade is something all Saudis know of but few wish to discuss. But yesterday, I spoke to a man who had once flown over the Saudi desert with the old King Abdul Aziz. "The king wanted to show me a village," he said. "I didn't know why but when we got overhead, it was just a deserted place with a few stray dogs.

"And then the king said to me: `The people of this village used to rob the caravans to Mecca and I warned them to stop. They didn't listen to me, so I warned them again. Again, they didn't listen. So I sent my guards to the village and they cut off the heads of every man, woman and child. And they waited for villagers to return from far away. And they cut off their heads too. And there was no more robbery. If you are going to rule, you must use your power and be firm."

If other Muslim nations, however, think they can regard themselves as squeaky clean in the execution stakes, here are a few statistics to suggest otherwise: Iraq has so far this year executed 208 people, Kuwait six, Yemen 17, Iran 69, United Arab Emirates two. Just over four years ago, the Emirates executed an 18-year-old Sri Lankan girl on her birthday. So far this year, the US has executed 59 people by lethal injection and electric chair.

Suggested Topics
News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
news

Sport
footballThe latest scores and Twitter updates from tonight’s games, featuring Bayern Munich vs Man City and Chelsea vs Schalke
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur
film

It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959

News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
Extras
10 best table lamps
indybest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager (technical, applications, infrastructure)

£55000 - £60000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: IT Proj...

English Teacher (Bristol and South Gloucestershire)

Negotiable: Randstad Education Bristol: English teachers for day to day cover,...

Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Year 6 Teacher RequiredThis teaching...

SharePoint Administrator - Bishop's Stortford / Stansted

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SharePoint Administrator - Bishop's ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week