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Why Saudi Arabia sentenced female activist Israa al Ghomgham to death for first time



saudi arabia riot protest
in Qatif, eastern Saudi Arabia, face off with anti-riot police in
March 2011.


  • Saudi Arabia is on the cusp of executing a woman for
    political activism for the first time.
  • Israa al Ghomgham was sentenced to death for posting on
    Facebook and going to a fellow protester’s funeral, according
    to court documents secured by two human rights groups.
  • The most usual method is beheading with a
  • Meanwhile, 
    Saudi Arabia remains
    locked in a diplomatic feud with Canada, which began earlier
    this month.
  • The feud has seen the Arab kingdom and its allies
    criticize Canada for various issues, including women’s

Posting on Facebook, protesting, and going to a funeral are among
the reasons why Saudi Arabia is
set to execute a female activist for the first time
, court
documents obtained by international human rights groups have

Israa al Ghomgham, 29, was charged with breaking two laws, which
has led to her death sentence, according to court records
obtained by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch on

The news of her death sentence came as Saudi
Arabia criticized Canada for its record on women’s rights,

which has seen the kingdom cancel flights, recall students, and
cut investment to Canada.

There is no confirmed execution date for al Ghomgham so far. The
method of her death sentence is also not yet clear, but the most
common method used in the kingdom is beheading by sword.

Here’s al Ghomgham’s charge list, according to the court

  • Violating Royal Decree 44/A for “participating in
    protests in al-Qatif and documenting these protests on social
  • “Providing moral support to rioters by participating in
    funerals of protesters killed during clashes with security
  • “Committing forgery by using the passport photo of
    another woman on her Facebook account.”
  • “Violating Article 6 of the Anti-Cyber Crime law”
    through, among other things, advocating for protests and
    posting photos and videos of protests on Facebook.

Al Ghomgham has been subjected to multiple rounds of sentencing.
Her first one on August 6 took place alongside five more people,
including her husband, according to
Human Rights Watch
Amnesty International
. All six of them were recommended the
death sentence.

According to Human Rights Watch
, the judge had invoked the
Islamic law of “ta’zirn” in his recommendation — his personal
discretion of the definition of what constitutes a crime and the
sentence it deserves.

Al Ghomgham will also face another sentencing review on October
28, although its purpose is not clear. It’s also not clear
whether the five other people facing the death penalty will also
have a sentencing review.

Saudi Arabia King Salman
Arabia’s ruler, King Salman, in 2015.


All executions in Saudi Arabia require authorization from the
country’s ruler, King Salman,
according to the Independent
. It is not clear whether he has
authorized al Ghomgham’s death. It is also not clear whether this
will be addressed in her sentencing review.

Al Ghomgham has been imprisoned since she was arrested
alongside her husband in December 2015,
Reuters reported
. She is currently being held in the al
Mabahith prison in Dammam, eastern Saudi Arabia,
Amnesty International said in a press release

Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East director of
said in a statement
“The charges against Israa
al-Ghomgham are absurd and clearly politically motivated to
silence dissent in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.”

Canada saudi arabia Trudeau vs bin Salman
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vs Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince
Mohammed Bin Salman.

Images/Business Insider

The death sentence came during a diplomatic feud with Canada

Saudi Arabia and Canada have been engaged in a diplomatic feud
for weeks.

Earlier this month Canada’s foreign ministry tweeted
that it was “gravely concerned” about the arrests of several
women’s rights activists, including Samar Badawi, the sister
of a Canadian citizens.

In response, Saudi Arabia
cancelled flights, recalled students, and cut investment to

Earlier this month the country also called Canada
one of the world’s worst oppressors of women
in one bizarre
crusade, in which it highlighted the disappearance of 1,000
indigenous women over the past hundred years, without mentioning
steps taken in recent years to mitigate the problem.

In Canada, women have full legal rights to seek employment,
access abortion services, and express their gender identities as
they see fit. Women in Saudi Arabia have to get permission to
marry, get a job, or travel abroad.

Canada also does not have a death penalty.

Business Insider has contacted Saudi Arabia’s information
ministry for comment on al Ghomgham’s case.

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