Trigger Warning – Death, Gore, Injustice
“Oranges and Lemons” say the bells of St. Clement’s
“You owe me Five Farthings” say the bells of St. Martin’s
“When will pay me?” Say the bells of Old Bailey
“When I Grow Rich!” Say the bells of Shoreditch
“When will that be?” Say the bells of Stepney
“I really don’t know” Say the great bells of Bow
Here comes a Candle to Light you to Bed
And here comes a Chopper to Chop off your Head
There is a well known tourist spot for the traveller to the Middle East. You may not think that there is a tourist industry in Saudi Arabia but you forget one thing.
Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest travel destinations on the planet. It is every Muslim’s duty to go on pilgrimage to Mecca and why not see the sights while you are there?
And one of the sites is the beautiful Qasr al-Masmak, which is an old medieval fort which is next to the Grand Mosque. But when you go visit there is something else to see.
A few hundred metres away is a plaza between the mosque and the fort. It’s ringed by a few benches and has palm trees. Sometimes there is a souk (Market) there. But to the more trained eye there is one thing you should notice.
There is a single drain in the middle. You will be advised to visit during the week (Saturday to Thursday) and avoid it on Friday. It’s not the rush really. You see this place goes by many names. Al Safa Square or Al Dirah Square. The Square of The Grand Mosque. The Chop Chop Square.
You are now standing on the execution ground for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where around 2 people a week meet their gruesome and public end. It is one of the last places you can witness an execution or public punishment. It is also where judicial amputation takes place. If you were to go on Friday you can expect front row seats to such a spectacle, in the same vein as the women who used to take their knitting to the guillotine. And it’s not where Rizana Nafeek, a Sri Lankan maid; was beheaded on Wednesday, she was killed outside Riyadh, but it’s where many people like her have died. At the time of her alleged crime she was a minor who shouldn’t even be HIRED let alone executed.
What passes for the judicial system in Saudi Arabia is less CSI and more a lottery system aimed at terrorising people into compliance. How much of a lottery system? Will Sampson was arrested in 2001, and was forced to sign a false confession after a series of brutal attacks on expats. Rather than admit to a “problem” with Islamic Fundamentalism ™ the Saudi Arabian government decided to blame a bunch of brits including Will Sampson. He was told that in exchange for a confession they would deport him, so he signed a confession he couldn’t read and read it out in a language he didn’t understand on national TV. They instead sentenced him to death.
After 964 days of solitary confinement, mental torture and fear of death, he was granted clemency. Not because the judicial system was incorrect or because he received a fair trial (He wasn’t even allowed at retrials) but because he was part of a prisoner exchange program with the USA. He was “saved” because he was a Brit. His passport kept him safe. Had he had the misfortune to be Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Indian, Somali, Filipino or indeed Sri Lankan he would have been virtually doomed.
While that begs the question as to what my country is doing hanging out with a country where such barbarism abounds, we aren’t here to discuss the politics of the UK and the KSA. We really should tell them to fuck off but really that won’t occur unless the KSA run out of oil or there is a massive Muslim backlash against the “home” of Islam.
What we are here to discuss Nafeek. In 2005 she was a seventeen year old maid (Because you can totally hire children as virtual slaves in Saudi Arabia). Oh don’t worry! It’s seen as charity! You see they go to a third world nation and offer them a lot of money via exchange rates. Don’t you know? Most of India works for around $2 a day so if you offer them $10 to work for you in the USA they would jump at the chance! EXCEPT! You know as well as I do that $10 for a whole work day is “frankly slave labour”. The people they are enticing to sign on are not well educated and are often enticed by money that would mean a lot for their families. They don’t know what they are earning is practically shiny beads and mirrors. In 2005, her ward a four month old baby died. The child’s mother blames her for murder, Nafeek says that the baby aspirated milk during a bottle feed. Oh it’s okay she signed a confession in Arabic. That well known Sri Lankan language. Most of these confessions are pre-written and are reliant on the fact that you cannot read what they say. Few non-arabs speak Arabic and even fewer can read it. In fact most Muslims do not speak Arabic as a first language. She also had no access to a lawyer, she was allegedly defended by a man (Don’t be silly! Women can’t be lawyers!) who she never met even once to discuss her case. She never got to see any evidence or even make a statement to defend herself. Clearly she shouldn’t have worried her pretty little head about things such as “the law”. Oh and if you want to hear something amusing? The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia utilises the Koran to decide on such cases. You may be wondering, since it’s easy to check if a baby was smothered or has choked on a foreign body, but you have to remember that forensic evidence is NOT PERMISSIBLE in capital offences. Only witnesses and confessions because there was no forensic science in the Koran. The ultimate joke is that Nafeek was probably not guilty, it was just the word of a child who had no voice versus people who did and who would have basically treated her as a slave.
Safe World for Women raised awareness on her behalf. I agree with them, it was a core breech of human rights and an astonishing one consider she was a child at the time of the offence. The Government of Sri Lanka is under protest at the moment with Sri Lanka holding memorial services and protests against the Saudi government. The government of Sri Lanka was actually assembling a delegation to the KSA in order to lobby for her release. It was believed that Sri Lanka would have paid her blood money had the KSA not executed her on the Wednesday.
This is what thousands of people face in the KSA. Wahabbism’s gift to Islam is brutality and barbarism. We have to remember that more Muslims live under these rules than we do.
How does it go? In the good olde days it was a proper little event for the entire (male) part of the family. Nowadays I hear it’s a bit more subdued.
Normally Four Main people are present, the state executioner (a man who is a celebrity! He even gets interviews where he talks about his sword and family. But he is merely an instrument of the state. The sword isn’t evil, neither is the man. He merely is following orders lest he fall victim to his own sword.) and two policemen who stand with the plaintiff. You see at any time the plaintiff may “forgive” the accused (usually for Blood Money – Diyyah cost at nearly 700,000 dollars in some cases). It’s over in minutes, the police usually form a line to separate the crowd from the scene with the kneeling “victim” has a black bag tied around their neck near the single drain. The accused stands with two policemen nearby. The executioner confers one last time before making a small cut to the back of the neck of the victim causing their head to jerk straight from the pain followed by a much bigger swing.
The sword is razor sharp and the executioner does this nearly every week, sometimes even twice. It’s over in a single blow with gravity claiming both sides of the body as blood pools out towards the drain. It sounds like a wet (head of) cabbage falling off the table. Often people say that “he died bravely”, but dead is dead. Most people don’t care how they die so much as the fact they are dying. Many die protesting their innocence to their grave, many offer everything they have, many die in fear and in pain. According to the Saudi government no mistakes are ever made because it’s a divine system of justice. People genuinely believe that those who die and those who lose their limbs deserve what they get.
The crimes are read out and the body is usually taken away immediately. Although friends used to tell me that in the early 90s sometimes the body would be hung up to display. But you know… progress is progress.
This whole process takes less than 10 minutes. In under half an hour you wouldn’t have known what had happened there with the only evidence being a freshly cleaned plaza. If you feel particularly peckish there are a few restaurants around, but leave early if you want to get to the head of the queue.
What can we do? Nothing much, we are reliant on their oil. Until the oil runs out a little part of Riyadh will always be called Chop Chop Square. We can ask what our governments are doing hanging out with such people but we know the answer. Most of us would rather be able to get to the stores/mall a little cheaper. We need the KSA to power our lifestyle and Muslims support the KSA because of Mecca. Until both we and the Muslim people of the world unite in declaring the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a country of fanatics who subscribe to a barbarian and brutal version of Islam rather than the elegance of Ibn Sina or the verse of Kabir and Khayyam… Until there is abject rebellion against the seat of Islam itself From Muslims…
Until we wrench apart the stranglehold of fanatics there will always be a little part of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia called Chop Chop Square.
Chop Chop Chop – The Last Man’s Dead
An Old Nursery Rhyme and Children’s Game