By Jalal Alamgir, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Massachusetts Boston
It’s Friday, the holy day of the week. The Kingdom’s law enforcers gather up eight Bangladeshi migrant workers from their prison cells and bring them to Justice Square in the capital, Riyadh.
Blindfolded, they are led to the center of the square, and made to kneel down. A small crowd forms in anticipation. At 9 am, a robed man walks up and slowly raises a sword, four feet long and shining. Ambulances wait, stretchers ready.
The sword sweeps down.
The sleek expanse of Justice Square is patterned with beautiful granite. There is no stage, no unnecessary equipment, no fanfare. Underneath runs an efficient drainage system, with a receptacle the size of a pizza box at the center.
Regardless, the head often rolls in unexpected directions. It’s collected and laid alongside the body before being taken away on stretchers. Some of the blood spilled on the granite drains quickly, and the rest is hosed down. Those spraying the water are themselves migrant workers.
This is justice, square and fair in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, one of the most backward regimes in the world. Here, hands are chopped, bodies are decapitated. Torture is common in extracting confessions. The accused have little protection.
And racism is stark: Arabs get away with a lot more than dark-skinned migrant laborers do. ….
….. The Kingdom, buttressed by its special relationships, does not waste any opportunity to show who the boss is. A public execution is just such an opportunity. The beheading of the eight was a shameful shock-and-awe tactic, a warning to the millions of other workers to remain submissive, however back-breaking their life may be. The message is clear: obey, and keep your head.
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