The Saudi government executed its 99th and 100th convicts of the year on Monday. A dubious local court system already had convicted a Syrian with trafficking drugs and a Saudi of stabbing a fellow citizen. Wearing black bags over their heads, the convicts were publicly executed—each beheading delivered with the single swing of a long sword.
Such executions have long been part of Saudi Arabia’s criminal justice system. But the Kingdom this year is on a gruesome killing spree, taking off the heads of 100 people in just the first six months of this year. The toll has startled the world community and raised questions about the Kingdom’s new blood thirst.
In 2014, there were 90 such deaths, according to Amnesty International, and just 26 in 2011, the year of Arab Spring. Roughly half of those killed this year are foreign nationals, with Pakistanis representing the most foreigners killed at 14, according to Human Rights Watch. At least three are under 18 years old. If such rates continue this year, Saudi Arabia will surpass its own record of 192 executions, set in 1995.
Experts and U.S. officials watching events unfold believe the regional instability is leading to increased internal fears of jihadism, revolution, and rebellion seeping into the Kingdom. The rising Islamic State threat, regional instability, falling energy prices, a rising Iranian hegemony, and the Kingdom’s failed assault on rebels in Yemen are aggravating already existing internal tensions.