LARKANA: The execution of 47 people, including scholar Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr, by Saudi Arabia has raised regional as well as international concerns. The action of Iranian protestors in attacking the Saudi Arabian embassy in Tehran in response to Al-Nimr’s execution resulted in the recall of diplomats by Saudi Arabia from Iran, followed by its Arab allies Kuwait, Bahrain and Sudan doing the same.
This issue has arisen at a time when a road map to peace had been established in Syria and a ceasefire had been called in Yemen. Across the Middle East, both Iran and Saudi Arabia have a long history of supporting proxies and political conflicts against each other. This latest crisis would undoubtedly undermine any ongoing initiatives for peace in a war-torn region where thousands of people have died due to sectarian violence and at the hands of the Islamic State.
The execution of the dissident cleric is being seen by many as a grave violation of human rights and seems to have benefited no one. At the same time, Iran is also accused of severe human rights violations. Protection of the Saudi Arabian embassy was the responsibility of the Iranian government. The attack was uncalled for and in violation of international agreements, including Article 22 of the Vienna Convention, which stipulates that a host country protects foreign embassies on its soil.
The recent spat between the two countries could lead to further escalation of the sectarian divide and unleash conflicts beyond their borders. Both countries should understand this and look for ways to settle their disputes on the dialogue table because it is always innocent civilians who suffer the most. Other Muslim countries must play the role of mediators between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Pakistan, especially owing to its relations with Saudi Arabia and its geographical proximity to Iran, should strive hard to help establish peace in the region.
Imran Ali Bhayo
Published in The Express Tribune, January 10th, 2016.