The razor sharp sword of Islam 544

ABC News reports:

Rizana Nafeek, a young nanny from Sri Lanka, was beheaded by sword [in June, 2011] in Saudi Arabia, punishment for allegedly killing a baby in 2007 when she was believed to be just 17.

We are not told whose baby it was or how she killed it. Violently? Accidentally? By abandonment and neglect the way babies are routinely and lawfully killed in China and Britain?

The execution has spurred international outcry, given Nafeek’s age at the time of the incident and her limited access [or no access at all?] to a defense attorney. …

Few details of Nafeek’s execution have leaked from the country’s tightly controlled media, but the interior ministry said her head was severed from her body in public in Dawadmy, a dusty suburb of the capital Riyadh. …I

Some 82 executions were carried out in Saudi Arabia last year … It is unknown how many of them were women or carried out by sword, but the majority of the condemned were foreigners, like Nafeek.

Beheadings in Saudi Arabia are governed by certain rules.

They are conducted in public, typically in town squares or near prisons. The condemned, as well as the executioner, typically wear white. The convict is blindfolded, handcuffed and often given a sedative. A plastic tarp, several feet wide, is sometimes spread out around the convict to make cleaning up the blood and recovering her head easier.

The heads of the condemned can sometimes roll several feet from the body, said Saudi Arabia’s leading executioner in a rare 2003 interview with Saudi newspaper Arab News.

“The criminal was tied and blindfolded. With one stroke of the sword I severed his head. It rolled meters away,” said executioner Muhammad Saad al-Beshi, recalling his first beheading.

Al-Beshi said he has executed as many as 10 people in one day, by sword and by bullet.

“It depends what they ask me to use. Sometimes they ask me to use a sword and sometimes a gun. But most of the time I use the sword,” he said.

He said he keeps his sword razor sharp, and allows his children to help clean it. 

“People are amazed how fast it can separate the head from the body,” he said.

Executioners like Al-Beshi are trained professionals who also carry out amputations, severing the hands, feet and tongues, of convicted criminals.

The pain from the cutting of a tongue is extremely intense and persists for weeks or even months.

The executioner said it is not uncommon for spectators to pass out at a beheading.

“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,” he said.