FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CODEPINK to Stage Mock Beheading Outside White House on Eve of Obama’s Visit to Saudi Arabia
Protest to Highlight Juvenile Death Penalty, Pressure President Obama to End Support for the Repressive Regime
WASHINGTON, April 20, 2016 – The anti-war group CODEPINK will stage a mock beheading in front of the White House on Wednesday to bring attention to the plight of three Saudi Arabian youth—Ali al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon, and Abdullah al-Zaher–sentenced to death for participating in nonviolent protests against the Saudi regime. President Obama is set to visit the Kingdom on April 21 and CODEPINK urges him to intervene on their behalf.
These three Shia youth are being punished for activities that the United States protects as free speech under the First Amendment of the Constitution. The imposition of the death penalty under these circumstances alone is untenable. Even worse, their confessions were extracted under torture and their trials grossly unjust.
Saudi Arabia is rife with human rights abuses. Human rights activists and bloggers like Raif Badawi are subject to public flogging and long prison sentences; anti-terrorism laws criminalize any form of political dissent; there is no freedom of assembly, no political parties, no national elections.
The Shia minority is also subject to ongoing state-sponsored discrimination. The renowned Shia Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was executed on January 2, as were three other members of the Shia community. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said: “Sheikh al-Nimr’s execution blatantly disregards the right to dissent and the right to religious freedom of Shia Muslims in the country and contributes to sectarian discord both within Saudi Arabia and in the region. It is long past due for the government of Saudi Arabia to honor international standards of justice and ensure the religious freedom and equal protection rights of everyone in the Kingdom, including its Shia Muslim citizens.”
There has been increasing U.S. public criticism of the Saudi regime, including outrage at Saudi Arabia’s recent threat to withdraw billions of dollars from the U.S. economy if Congress passes a bill allowing victims of 9/11 and other terrorist attacks to sue foreign governments. “More and more Americans are questioning why Saudi Arabia—a country that spreads extremism and is so repressive internally—continues to be a U.S. ally,” said CODEPINK cofounder Medea Benjamin, author of an upcoming book Kingdom of the Unjust. “Obama should use his visit to show support for democratic reforms and for political dissidents like Ali al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon, and Abdullah al-Zaher.”