Over the last two weeks there has been considerable outrage over the gruesome execution of the American #JamesFoley by beheading allegedly by a jihadist from the UK, possibly London. That someone nurtured on these shores should go to another country and commit such a crime horrifies people in this country and of course the USA. The execution has added to the degree of urgency in the government and there are plans to bring in legislation to confiscate passports and monitor the movement back to this country of jihadists from ISIS areas of Iraq.
The barbaric and medieval nature of the crime has shocked many in the west.
In the last three weeks – between 4 and 22 August – 23 people in Saudi Arabia have been executed by beheadings. These executions take place in public and frequently, the bodies are left on public display as some kind of deterrent. Around 2000 have been executed in this fashion since 1985. Around half are foreign nationals.
The executions follow trials where confessions are read out. Many or even most of the confessions are extracted following torture. Defendants often do not have legal representation and may not be able to follow the trials such as they are. You will have to look long and hard to find much about these executions in western newspapers.
How are the two connected?
Saudi Arabia, along with Qatar, are in receipt of considerable quantities of arms from western countries including the UK. David Cameron visited the country to promote trade and arms sales. The Campaign Against the Arms Trade #CATT has found out that we exported £113 million of arms to Saudi in 2013.
With American support, both countries were arming the Syrian rebels of which the Islamic State is one. So we support and provide arms to countries which are in turn supporting the Islamic State and which carry out barbaric executions in public. Almost nothing is said about this and it receives very little coverage.
We need to be more balanced in our policies and attitudes to some of these despotic regimes. If we are going to say nothing about barbaric behaviour because it might upset an arms deal to Saudi or Qatar, it is then inconsistent to start making speeches when no arms deals are in the offing.