Sequestration in Saudi Arabia? May eliminate beheadings

It seems the whole world is cutting back. In Saudi Arabia they may eliminate beheadings because there are not enough executioners. Photo: AP

CHARLOTTEMarch 12, 2013 – With the announcement that Saudi Arabia my have to eliminate beheadings, could it be that sequestration is becoming an international phenomenon?

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a lot of things going for it: No taxes, abundant oil and a low rate of drug use due to the threat of beheading for distribution or possession.

But suddenly beheading, the traditional means of execution in the Kingdom, faces severe cuts and could be replaced by firing squads due to a lack of qualified swordsmen.

In a rare June of 2003 interview, Saudi Arabia’s chief executioner, Muhammad Saad Al-Beshi told the Arab News, the Middle East’s leading English newspaper, “It doesn’t matter to me. Two, four, 10 – As long as I’m doing God’s will, it doesn’t matter how many people I execute.”

“I sleep very well,” Al-Beshi added.

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Now a decade later, business appears to be dropping off because finding swordsman who can carry out the responsibilities in the appropriate manner is becoming increasingly difficult.

A proper executioner’s sword is usually a gift from the government and costs about SR 20,000 which is more than $5,000. Al-Beshi is extremely proud of the primary tool of his trade saying, “I look after it and sharpen it once in a while, and I make sure to clean it of bloodstains.”

Sometimes when Al-Beshi returns home from work, his family does the honors by cleaning the sword for him.

The typical scimitar ranges in length from three and half to four feet, and the condemned man or woman is blindfolded and made to kneel in the direction of Mecca.

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The 52-year old executioner began his career at a prison in Taif where his job was to handcuff and blindfold prisoners before their sentence was carried out. “Because of this background, I developed a desire to be an executioner,” said Al-Beshi.

Al-Beshi applied for the job and was accepted. His first execution was held in Jeddah in 1998. At the outset he said it was unsettling because many people were watching, but today “stage fright is a thing of the past.”

“The criminal was tied and blindfolded. With one stroke of the sword I severed his head. It rolled meters away,” he continued.

The veteran enforcer claims that now he is always calm because he knows he is doing God’s work. “There are many people who faint when they witness an execution. I don’t know why they come and watch if they don’t have the stomach for it.”

Not always, but many times, punishments are carried out in a main square following Friday prayers.

According to Al-Beshi, one thing that always amazes people is how sharp the blade is and how quickly it can separate the head from the body.

As far as Al-Beshi is concerned there is no hesitation about executing women. As he explained, “Despite the fact that I hate violence against women, when it comes to God’s will, I have to carry it out.”

There is little difference between killing a man or a woman except that a woman wears a hijab, or head scarf, and no one except Al-Beshi is allowed to be near a woman when the time for death approaches.

Al-Beshi’s son Musaed hopes to carry on the family tradition if it survives. Training consists mainly with how to hold the sword and where to strike. Most of what Musaed learned before accepting the job was through observation.

Although Al-Beshi is paid per execution, he insists that money is not his primary motivation. “I am very proud to do God’s work,” he stated.

Of course, not all of Al-Beshi’s victims are killed. Sometimes he performs amputations of hands and legs. When that happens he uses different equipment which is usually a very sharp knife rather than a sword.

“When I cut off a hand I cut it from the joint,” said Al-Beshi. “If it is a leg the authorities specify where it is to be taken off, so I follow that.”

Al-Beshi is a loving family man who adores his grandchildren. Haza is the oldest which makes him the favorite. Whether or not Haza can or will continue in the family business remains to be seen.

For the moment, the lack of personnel at the cutting edge of Saudi society may soon bring about a major change within the culture.

Sequestration could be taking its toll on a global basis. Only time will tell.

Peabod is Bob Taylor, owner of Taylored Media Services in CharlotteNCTaylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club, which creates, and escorts customized tours to SwitzerlandFrance and Italy for groups of 12 or more.

Inquiries for groups can be made at Taylored Media has produced marketing videos for British Rail, Rail Europe, Switzerland Tourism, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council, the Finnish Tourist Board, the Swiss Travel System and Japan Railways Group among others.

As author of The Century Club book, Peabod is now attempting to travel to 100 countries or more during his lifetime. To date he has visited 71 countries. Suggest someplace new for Bob to visit; if you want to know where he has been, check his list on Facebook. Bob plans to write a sequel to his book when he reaches his goal of 100 countries. He also played professional baseball for four years and was a sportscaster for 14 years at WBTV, the CBS affiliate in Charlotte.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor has been travel writer for more than three decades. Following a career as an award winning sports producer/anchor, Taylor’s media production business produced marketing presentations for Switzerland Tourism, Rail Europe, the Finnish Tourist Board, Japan Railways Group, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council and the Swiss Travel System among others. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club ( and his goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.


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