USCIRF Condemns Saudi Arabia’s Latest Execution of Shi’a Man

Jun 17, 2021

USCIRF Condemns Saudi Arabia’s Latest Execution of Shi’a Man


Washington, D.C. – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today condemned the Saudi government for executing Mustafa Darwish, a 26-year old Shi’a Muslim man arrested in 2015 on charges of “participation in armed rebellion against the rulers.”

 Monday's execution is an appalling violation of freedom of religion or belief. The United States government must not respond with silence in the face of Saudi Arabia’s ceaseless and systematic persecution of its Shi’a minority,” said USCIRF Chair Nadine Maenza. “Congress should think carefully before approving future arms sales to a country that treats a religious minority as a threat to national security.

 Saudi authorities arrested Darwish following protests in 2011 and 2012 against government marginalization of people in the majority-Shi’a Muslim Eastern province. Darwish was a minor when he participated in the protests, and was reportedly deprived of his right to a lawyer until the beginning of his trial. Since 2011, Saudi Arabia has executed scores of Shi’a participants in these protests, including a mass execution in 2019 of 32 Shi’a Saudis, among them a prisoner accused as a minor and a religious cleric.

As USCIRF recently reported, Shi’a Muslims in Saudi Arabia continue to face discrimination in education, employment, and the judiciary, and they lack access to senior positions in the government and military. Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights Commission announced the government would commute capital sentences against minors in February 2021, but the policy has not been published in the official gazette. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia continues to systematically deny freedom of religion and belief to Shi’a and other religious minorities in the kingdom.

 Saudi Arabia’s hostility toward Shi’a Muslims, Christians, nontheists, and other religious minorities continues to hamper its efforts to promote an image of progress and reform,” said USCIRF Vice Chair Nury Turkel. “The White House and State Department should continue to raise publicly the United States’ concerns about Saudi Arabia’s systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations with Saudi officials.”

In its 2021 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the State Department designate Saudi Arabia as a “country of particular concern” for engaging in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, as defined by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). While the State Department made this designation on December 2, 2020, it issued a waiver exempting Saudi Arabia from sanctions to which it would otherwise be subject under the IRFA.

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The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at media@USCIRF.gov.