Nimr Baqr Al-Nimr, commonly referred to as Sheikh Nimr, was an independent Shiite Sheikh in Al-Awamiyah, Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia. He was popular among youth and critical of the Saudi Arabian government.
He was executed by the Saudi forces on Jan. 2 at the age of 55.
Al-Nimr was raised in Al-Awamiyah and studied in one of its schools and became a preacher in the area later. After the launch of the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979 he moved to the country. After his stay in Iran, he moved to Iraq where he studied at the Hawzaa seminary where Shi’a Muslim clerics are trained. Later on, he moved to Syria and stayed away from the Saudi Kingdom for over 15 years before returning in 1994.
Al-Nimr had been a long time critic of the Saudi government, and was jailed on a number of occasions for his involvement in protests, and was found guilty by the country’s Specialized Criminal Court in 2014 of crimes including calling for the collapse of the state and failing to pledge allegiance to the government.
In 2009, he criticized Saudi authorities and suggested secession of the Eastern Province if Shiite rights were not respected. A warrant for his arrest was issued and 35 people were arrested.
During protests in 2011–2012, Al-Nimr called for protesters to resist security forces by using “the roar of the word” rather than violence. The Guardian, a British newspaper, described him as having “taken the lead in the uprising”. He was convicted of sedition, disobedience and bearing arms. Nimr did not deny the political charges against him, but said he never carried weapons or called for violence.
On July 8, 2012 Al-Nimr was shot in the leg by police and arrested, in what authorities described as an exchange of gunfire. Two years later he was sentenced to death by the Specialized Criminal Court for seeking ‘foreign meddling’ in Saudi Arabia, ‘disobeying’ its rulers and taking up arms against the security forces.