The Gulf widens over executions

Share
Related Topics
The news that Saudi Arabia has executed 11 women - all of them apparently beheaded in public - within the past three years is truly shocking. There may be other executions of women that we do not know of, quite apart from the 182 men who have also been decapitated, supposedly according to Islamic law, since January of this year. Among the most dreadful of the executions, as our Middle East correspondent reports today, was that of a mother and daughter who were beheaded together in Saudi Arabia in August for allegedly killing the elder woman's husband, the girl's father.

What should be our reaction to such ferocious deeds by governments, for the defence of whose freedom - if that word does not lose its meaning in such a context - Britain, America and other western nations sent half a million troops to the Gulf in 1990?

Inevitably, the Saudis and their Gulf neighbours will try to excuse their behaviour by claiming that threats to civil order must be met with a "strong hand". Gulf rulers argue that these punishments must be seen as part of a cultural, even tribal tradition very different from our own.

Such moral relativism is as unacceptable as it is misleading. Many of the hearings that sentenced these women were travesties of justice; in some cases, it is reported that the women were given no defence lawyers. The trials themselves were held in secret and the sentences only revealed - and this rarely - after the executions had taken place. Even those who accept capital punishment in specific circumstances will find no sanction for the act of beheading in the Koran. And it cannot be argued that men and women must receive identical punishments in Saudi Arabia on spurious grounds of equality. For how can a kingdom that does not even allow women to drive cars hold them responsible for their alleged crimes?

Our response to events in the Middle East has almost always been flawed, the reporting of wars and revolutions generally skewed to present a favourable view of those "allies" that support the West's policies in the region. Thus human rights abuses in countries like Iran have been rightly condemned; but those in Saudi Arabia have not elicited a mouse-squeak of complaint by the US and British governments. Indeed, ever since the liberation of Kuwait, they have laboured to persuade us that Saudi Arabia is becoming more liberal, not more restrictive, more democratic, not more theocratic.

Of course, we derive massive economic benefit from our arms trade with the Gulf. And, sadly, few nations are prepared to lose millions of pounds of exports to save a few human lives. But perhaps the time has now come to tell our friends in the Gulf that we shall in future be much less ready to rescue them from external tyrannies, if they do not end the cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments that they impose on their own people and upon their guest workers.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The reign of the cupcake may be at an end  

Gluten-free diets reveal more about Western anxieties than they do about the protein

Memphis Barker
 

Letter from the Whitehall Editor: The spurious Tory endorsement that misfired

Oliver Wright
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence