Iranian protesters attack Saudi embassy in Tehran

Iranian protesters storm Saudi embassy in Tehran after execution of prominent Shiite cleric by Saudi Arabia

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Flames rise from Saudi Arabia's embassy during a protests in Tehran on January 2, 2016

Updated Jan 3, 2016

Iranian protesters broke into the Saudi embassy and started fires, after Saudi Arabia executed 47 people over terror charges, including prominent Shiite cleric, sparking demonstrations worldwide.

One photograph, posted on Twitter, showed protesters outside the embassy building with small fires burning inside, while another purportedly showed a room with smashed furniture inside the building.

Saudi Arabia on Saturday executed 47 people for "terrorism," mostly suspected Al Qaeda members, but also a prominent Shiite cleric, Nimr al Nimr, and three other Shiites.

The four Shiites were accused of involvement in shootings and petrol bomb attacks that killed several police during anti-government protests during the “Arab Spring.”

Their family members denied the accusations and said they were peaceful protesters.

The remaining 43 people were convicted for attacks on Western compounds, government buildings and diplomatic missions that killed hundreds between 2003 to 2006.

"There is huge popular pressure on the government to punish those people," said Mustafa Alani, a security analyst close to the Saudi Interior Ministry.

"It included all the leaders of al Qaeda, all the ones responsible for shedding blood. It sends a message."

After the executions, DAESH urged its supporters to attack Saudi soldiers and police in revenge, in a message on Telegram, the SITE intelligence group reported.

Iran’s reaction and protests

In Iran, a Shiite theocracy and rival of Saudi Arabia, state media channels carried out non-stop coverage of clerics and secular officials praising Nimr and predicting the downfall of Saudi Arabia's Sunni ruling family.

Khamenei’s website later released a picture of a Saudi executioner next to the DAESH terrorist known as “Jihadi John”, with the caption "Any differences?"

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari said that, "The Saudi government will pay a high price for following these policies."

"The execution of a figure like Sheikh al Nimr, who had no means to follow his political and religious goals but through speaking out, merely shows the extent of irresponsibility and imprudence," national IRNA news agency reported.

Early Sunday morning, images were shared on social media showing Iranian protesters breaking into the Saudi embassy in Tehran and starting fires, after they gathered to protest the executions.

Police then cleared the angry crowd from the embassy and the Iran Foreign Ministry called for calm.

Flames and smoke rise from Saudi Arabia's embassy during a demonstration in Tehran January 2, 2016

Revolutionary Guards also said that, "A harsh revenge will strike the Al Saud in the near future and cause the fall of this pro-terrorist, anti-Islamic regime," in a statement made by local Mehr news agency.

Seminaries will be closed in Iran on Sunday to protest the execution, and a demonstration is expected to take place in the Grand Mosque of Qom, the heart of the Shia faith in Iran, the ISNA news agency said.

Worldwide Shiite protests

In Lebanon, the Supreme Islamic Shiite Council called Nimr’s execution a "grave mistake", and Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group, termed it an “assassination.”

Shiite leaders in Iraq, Kuwait and Yemen also warned of reprisals.

In Iraq, whose Shiite-led government has close relations with Iran, prominent religious and political figures demanded to sever ties, just one day after Saudi Arabia reopened its embassy in Baghdad for the first time since 1990.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is a Shiite himself, expressed “deep sorrow.”

In Kashmir, hundreds of Shiites protested the execution, and one of the organisers said the charges against Nimr were "baseless."

A protester shouts anti-Saudi slogans as he takes part in a protest against the execution of Saudi Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr by Saudi authorities, in the village of Sanabis, west of Manama, Bahrain on January 2, 2016

There were also protests in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain -a Saudi ally- by Shiite citizens.

In Saudi Arabia, Shiites marched through Nimr's home district of al-Qatif in the east, shouting "down with the Al Saud."

Bahrain and United Arab Emirates governments, on the other hand, praised the executions, saying the executions were necessary to confront extremism.

TRTWorld and agencies