On Saturday, January 2, Saudi Arabia executed forty-seven men on terrorism charges, including prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. Rather than discussing the state of human rights in Saudi Arabia, however, much of the Western media has instead, rather bizarrely, chosen to focus on Iran.

The mass execution was one of the largest in Saudi Arabia in decades, and comes after a twenty-year high of 158 executions in 2015. Sheikh al-Nimr was an outspoken critic of the Saudi government and had become a symbolic leader for Shiite protesters in the country, as well as in several other states, including Bahrain, during the Arab uprisings in 2011. Given his popularity, Nimr’s execution was met with protests around the world, including in Saudi Arabia, IndiaPakistan, Iran, Bahrain, and even the United Kingdom.

In Iran, these protests turned violent. In Tehran, demonstrators ransacked and set fire to the Saudi Embassy on Saturday. In Mashhad, protests also took place outside the Saudi consulate, with demonstrators tearing down the Saudi flag. In both cities, riot police confronted protesters. In response to these incidents, and despite condemnation from Iran’s president and a commitment to arrest the perpetrators, Saudi Arabia abruptly severed diplomatic ties with Iran on Sunday, January 3.

While the break between the two countries is certainly significant for the region, the focus on Iran and the wider regional conflict between the two countries has come at the expense of much needed analysis on the state of human rights in Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia, there is a systemic discrimination against the Shiite population, which makes up approximately ten to fifteen percent of the country.

According to Human Rights Watch, the Shia have unequal access to public education as well as government employment. Unlike other countries in the region with significant minority populations, in Saudi Arabia, there are no Shia ministers, and Shia remain largely shut out of senior government positions. The Saudi government limits the ability of the Shia to practice their religion freely, including by rarely allowing them to build mosques. Especially relevant to Nimr’s case, the Shia also do not receive equal treatment under the Saudi justice system.

In reporting on Nimr’s death, many news organizations have been so quick to link the issue with Iran that basic errors have been made. The Guardian, for example, initially reported that Sheikh al-Nimr was an “Iranian cleric.” Quartz reported that the last major attack of an embassy in Tehran was in 1979, ignoring attacks on the Saudi embassy in 1987 and the British embassy in 2011. Such journalism is not only irresponsible, but also helps the narrative some Gulf monarchies have promoted of blaming Iran for the unrest in their countries.

For its part, Saudi Arabia has long blamed Iran for protests in the country. In October 2011, for example, the Interior Ministry blamed protests in Al-Awamiyah, a village in the Al-Qatif region in the Eastern Province of the country where many Shia live, on Iran. A statement released by the ministry claimed that protests were “motivated by a foreign country that attempts to destabilize the nation’s security, and this is considered a breach of sovereignty.” While the statement did not name the foreign country, it was widely understood to refer to Iran. This logic continues in Saudi Arabia today, as well as Bahrain, which has also blamed Iran for protests in its country.

While an international perspective on regional conflicts is always welcome, Western media must be careful to not fuel destructive narratives. A serious discussion of human rights in Saudi Arabia and the routine marginalization and persecution of the Shia in the region should be discussed now more than ever.

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