middle_east

A beheading in Saudi Arabia

Judith Beheading Holofernes, Oil on canvas, 19...
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From Adam St. Patrick’s “Chop Chop Square: Inside Saudi Arabia’s brutal justice system” (The Walrus: May 2009):

This is Saudi Arabia, one of the last places on earth where capital punishment is a public spectacle. Decapitation awaits murderers, but the death penalty also applies to many other crimes, such as armed robbery, rape, adultery, drug use and trafficking, and renouncing Islam. There’s a woman on death row now for witchcraft, and the charge is based partly on a man’s accusation that her spell made him impotent. Saudi Arabia executed some 1,750 convicts between 1985 and 2008, yet reliable information about the practice is scarce. In Riyadh, beheadings happen at 9 a.m. any given day of the week, and there is no advance notice. There is also no written penal code, so questions of illegality depend on the on-the-spot interpretations of police and judges.

… The Saudi interpretation of the Koran discourages all forms of evidence other than confessions and eyewitness accounts in capital trials, on the theory that doing otherwise would leave too much discretion to the judge. But at any time until the sword strikes, a victim’s family can pardon the condemned — usually for a cash settlement of at least two million riyals ($690,000 or so) from the convict or his family.

Many who live to recount their experience in the Saudi justice system report that police promised freedom in exchange for a confession — or tortured them to get one.

In Riyadh, beheadings take place in a downtown public square equipped with a drain the size of a pizza box in its centre. Expatriates call it Chop Chop Square. … The job is a coveted one, often passed from father to son. In a Lebanese TV clip now on YouTube, a Saudi executioner shows off his swords and describes his approach: “If the heart is compassionate, the hand fails.”

Syrian-style torture via family connections

From D. Ghirlandaio’s “Comment to Stephen Griffin’s ‘Torture and the Ticking Time Bomb'” (10 October 2006):

The Syrians had a technique for the ticking bomb scenario. Give the man who knows where the bomb is a cell phone. “Call your mother.” At the mother’s house, a man picks up the phone.

Why the US toppled Iran’s government

From Robert Sherrill’s “100 (Plus) Years of Regime Change” (The Texas Observer: 14 July 2006):

In 1953 the brutal, venal shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was pushed into exile by Mohammad Mossadegh, the democratically elected prime minister. …

Iranians loved Mossadegh. He made clear that his two ambitions were to set up a lasting democracy and to strengthen nationalism – by which he meant get rid of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co., which had been robbing Iran for half a century. Indeed, the British company had been earning each year as much as all the royalties it paid Iran over 50 years. Mossadegh intended to recapture those riches to rebuild Iran.

In a scheme to get rid of Mossadegh, the British enlisted Secretary of State [John Foster] Dulles; he in turn enlisted his brother, CIA Director Allen Dulles, and what ensued was a truly masterful piece of skullduggery. … The CIA plotters ousted Mossadegh and restored the shah to his Peacock Throne.

For Secretary of State Dulles and his old law clients – including Gulf Oil Corp., Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey, Texaco Inc., and Mobil Corp., who were subsequently allowed to take 40 percent of Iran’s oil supply – the shah’s return was a happy and very lucrative event.

14 governments the US has overthrown in 110 years

From Robert Sherrill’s “100 (Plus) Years of Regime Change” (The Texas Observer: 14 July 2006):

[Stephen Kinzer’s] Overthrow is an infuriating recitation of our government’s military bullying over the past 110 years – a century of interventions around the world that resulted in the overthrow of 14 governments – in Hawaii, Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Vietnam, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama, Chile, Iran, Grenada, Afghanistan, and … Iraq. …

Most of these coups were triggered by foreign combatants and then taken over and finished by us. But four of them, in many ways the worst of the lot, were all our own, from conspiracy to conclusion. American agents engaged in complex, well-financed campaigns to bring down the governments of Iran, Guatemala, South Vietnam, and Chile. None would have fallen – certainly not in the same way or at the same time – if Washington had not acted as it did.

Each of these four coups was launched against a government that was reasonably democratic (with the arguable exception of South Vietnam) …. They led to the fall of leaders who embraced American ideals, and the imposition of others who detested everything Americans hold dear. They were not rogue operations. Presidents, cabinet secretaries, national security advisers, and CIA directors approved them …. The first thing all four of these coups have in common is that American leaders promoted them consciously, willfully, deliberately, and in strict accordance with the laws.