Rare footage shows public beheadings in Saudi Arabia

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At least 144 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia this year, compared with 87 in all of 2014

A screen grab from the beginning of a video said to be from a recent execution in Saudi Arabia (YouTube)
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Last update: 
Saturday 7 November 2015 15:31 UTC
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Rare footage emerged on Saturday of authorities in Saudi Arabia publicly beheading three men.

A 50-second video was uploaded to YouTube by Germany-based Saudi activist Ali Dubaisy, who told Middle East Eye he had obtained it from sources inside the kingdom.

Dubaisy said a tourist in the Red Sea city of Jeddah filmed the footage on a mobile phone, adding that it is rare to obtain such footage as it is illegal to film executions.

A man was arrested in January after filming the public beheading of a woman in Mecca.

Dubaisy said he is not aware when the execution of the three men took place but he said it was “recently”. The men's identity and the reason for their execution is not known.

The video begins with the three men shown blindfolded and kneeling on the side of a public street.

Three uniformed police officers are stood behind the men.

A group of Saudi officials wearing traditional dress are gathered nearby, one of who is carrying a long curved silver sword.

In the video people can be heard chattering in the background, from among the group of tourists who are on a bus with the person filming.

There is a group of around 30 men gathered outside the bus, facing the square, watching the men about to be beheaded.

The executioner walks up to the first man, women are heard screaming in the background, and he raises his sword in the air.

The executioner swings the sword down with such force that the kneeling man’s head is completely severed.



The severed head falls at the feet of the executioner, the body falls the other way, and the executioner takes a step back.

The executioner is then seen to wipe blood from his sword with what appears to be a cloth, which he drops on the decapitated body as he walks past over to the second man.

The executioner immediately raises his sword again, brings it down with similar force as he did with the first beheading, but this time the man’s head is not completely severed.

People can again be heard screaming in the background.

Although the beheading is not complete, the second man is clearly dead, as his body falls to the ground and is still.



A bus then drives in front of the camera, briefly obscuring the view.

When the bus passes, the executioner is stood next to the third man and has his sword raised in the air.

This time the executioner cleanly beheads the person kneeling before him. The body falls to the ground, this time towards the executioner, who looks down and drops something on top of the corpse.



The tourists’ bus drives away and the video ends.

The number of executions in Saudi Arabia has risen dramatically this year. Human Rights Watch has reported that 144 people have been beheaded so far in 2015, compared with 87 in the whole of 2014.

The majority of people executed are convicted on charges relating to drugs or murder.

Officials have not commented on why executions have risen, but activists have suggested it could be down to rising poverty in the Gulf state.