The quickness with which people and social media are mobilized in defense of groups or individuals whose basic human rights - life, freedom of movement and expression - are threatened by an authoritarian government seems to have a limit. A cultural landmark: those repressed must present similarities with those activeted in their defense.
If, fortunately, we are witnessing a generous mobilization for the Palestinians, nothing similar happens for the Rohingya people, for example, even though the UN told they are "the most persecuted minority in the world." If the universe of social media and people in the streets have fought for the Australian Julian Assange, the champion of the right to make public what the governments are hiding, nothing moves in the Western world for the Saudi Nimr Al-Nimr.
Assange has the same image of any man that we meet in our city, he talks according the canons of our dialectic: is easy, even automatic, identify in his battles. Al Nimr is an activist who calls for reforms: elections, equal rights for all components of a country where an authoritarian sectarian government prevents any freedom. Nevertheless, these battles do not come to Western public opinion - even though Nimr was the subject of an Assange's leak, as we will see later - because, although secular and shared by all, these battles are conducted by an Ayatollah. Whether agnostics, atheists or Christians believers, in the West we are not generally inclined to recognize our own requests if they are carried out by a Muslim theologian. It ’s a common limit and demonstrates that there is still long way to go for the equal dignity of cultures, nations, and even of religions, before the human rights become a global conquest safe from deviation or dark areas artificially introduced for geopolitical reasons.
Nimr Al-Nimr comes from a family engaged in the opposition to the domestic policy of the Saudi monarchy, paying a high price for this. Like him, his brother Ali is incarcerated; elderly mother and another brother lead strenuous battles for their freedom, but there is more at risk than freedom for Nimr. On his head hangs the application of the death penalty by crucifixion.
This risk is anything but hypothetical if we take into account - and there is almost nothing in the media - that in the last two weeks have been as many as 17 death sentences carried out in Arabia. As an alternative to the crucifixion, it can be done by decapitation or a firing squad, and this makes it difficult - even for the supporters of the death penalty - to make a distinction between the Saudi justice and the executions that the terrorists show in their videos.
As far as we can know, Nimr is being targeted by the police at least since 2004, the first jailing that we know, then in 2006, when he was released as a result of a strong popular uprising. In 2009 a new order of arrest, not run for the same reason.
In the 2011-2012 blooms, and soon fades in the repression, a "Saudi Arab Spring"; the crowd calling for the release of political prisoners and singing slogans against the Minister of Interior. Precisely during the uprising Nimr harangues the crowds with the concept of non-violence
"The Saudi authorities trust the bullets, killing and jailing. We have to trust the strong sound of the words, the words of Justice. We do not accept the use of firearms. This is not our practice. And we would be defeated. Our approach is the use of the word. We welcome those who follow this approach. However, we can not impose on others our methods if they do not want to follow, but for us the power of the words is stronger than bullets "
It’s during this short season of hopes for reform that Nimr, in 2012, was wounded by the police, captured and locked into the prison where he still stands, despite numerous protests of minorities - particularly the Shiites, who are about 15% of the total population and that the Wahhabi regime violently oppress - that have left on the ground casualties among the demonstrators.
Since then, Nimr has been in a long hunger strike, was tortured (felt the sorrow of the death of his unhealthy wife) and the imprisonment of his brother. A government against a family, you might say, a family taken as a symbol of minorities that do not intend to submit to the dictatorship.
If the public opinion in Western countries mostly ignores the struggles for freedom within the borders of Saudi Arabia, reformist activist Al Nimr has been scrutinized by the eye of the investigator of the 'American Intelligence.
Wikileaks: Document 08RIYADH1283 2008-08-23 05:31
[US Embassy political officers, or Representatives]
In August, 2008 "Poloff" - nickname that always covers the name of the author of the report to the American authorities - meets Nimr and maintains a long conversation.
Poloff relates his impressions: Nimr is gaining support especially among young people, shows no special ties with Iran, nor animosity towards the people of the United States appreciates the ideals of freedom and justice; expressed ardent opposition to authoritarianism of the Saudi government.
Poloff also reveals his intentions of espionage "It should be noted that, in order to predict the future behavior of Al-Nimr, is to be considered its growing popularity and continue an observation supported by many in the community".
Arab organizations for Human Rights have fought for this Scholar of Islam and reformist politician, not much, in truth, there was from the organizations that are part of the UN. Now the clock is ticking.
The deposition of the final sentence is scheduled for August 24. If on the one hand, by removing this “awkward character” the government hopes to stop the unrest in the eastern regions, on the other hand must take into account that the situation of the Middle East has changed since 2012. A greater attention from the international public opinion could tip the saudi scales of justice toward the political prudence in the use of the death penalty to the political opponents.
Save the life of the Sheikh, reformist and activist for the rights of the minorities, Nimr Al-Nimr would also be an approach to the clarity of the international human rights activism.