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

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

Savvy Media Ltd: Media Sales executive - Crawley

£25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Muslim men pray at the East London Mosque  

Sadly, it needs to be said again: being a Muslim is not a crime

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible