*Warning: Graphic content.
Shia Rights Watch, an NGO research entity and advocacy group headquartered in Washington, said in a press release that “in an unprecedented incident” the child, Zakaria al-Jaber, was killed after the perpetrator identified the boy as a Shiite Muslim.
Saudi officials were cited by the broadcaster as saying the taxi driver was suffering from mental health problems.
Local residents cited by TMV claimed the killing was an “act of sectarianism because the boy was from a Shia Muslim background.”
Multiple sources provide conflicting reports regarding the details of the boy’s murder, but all are consistent in the claim that the child was beheaded using broken glass in front of his mother.
According to Shia Rights Watch, Zakaria Al-Jaber and his mother had taken a taxi to a shrine in Medina, and when they arrived an “unknown man approached them” and asked if they were Shiite Muslims.
The mother reportedly said yes.
“Activists report that minutes after this conversation a car stopped by the woman and pulled the child away from her and attacked him with a broken piece of glass. Witnesses report the child was beheaded from behind his head as mother watched and screamed.”
The nonprofit claims that no bystanders intervened.
According to TMV, citing “sources close to the family,” the perpetrator was the taxi driver who stopped the car and “forced the boy out near a coffee shop in the Al-Tilal neighborhood.” The driver then allegedly smashed a glass bottle to obtain a shard of glass, which he then used to slash the boy’s throat, and stab him.
The traumatized mother is said to have tried to stop the driver from attacking the boy but fainted.
Witnesses cited by TMV said that a policeman stationed nearby also tried to stop the man from attacking the child, but he was unable to save the boy’s life. He reportedly restrained the driver until other officers arrived.
The Epoch Times has been unable to independently verify the reports.
First Pictures Emerge
The first pictures have reportedly emerged of the murdered boy.
“Smallest coffins are the heaviest 💔” wrote Sajid Hussain on Twitter in a post that features two images of the child and calls for “Justice For Zakaria.”
“That’s barbaric how that Saudi driver beheaded 6years old Zakariya. You don’t need to be a Shia or Sunni. Try to be a Human first. Justice Delayed means Justice Denied.”
He concluded the caption with the phrase hashtag #JusticeForZakaria.
Smallest coffins are the heaviest 💔
That's barbaric how that Saudi driver beheaded 6years old Zakariya. You don't need to be a Shia or Sunni. Try to be a a Human first. Justice Delayed means Justice Denied. #JusticeForZakaria pic.twitter.com/GXa0LHovMd
— Sajid Hussain (@Sajid14hussain) February 8, 2019
While it is not known why the boy was targeted, Saudi officials have reportedly claimed it an isolated incident.
Shia Rights Watch claims the slaying was an act of sectarian violence.
“The Saudi Shia community came together today in mourning and to show solidarity with the parents,” adding, “The community also reported this incident is a result of ongoing violations and lack of protection by the Saudi authority toward its Shia population.”
Shia Rights Watch, which on its website says it “achieves its objectives through strategic investigations supported by targeted advocacy in order to bring about informed action,” said the beheading must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
“Shia Rights Watch, other human rights NGOs, and activists have long advocated for the rights of this minority through campaigns, the U.N., and other entities. However, the population still suffers because of the lack of international commitment to end such violations.”
The group said that Saudi Shiites “have been under a military crackdown by their government and many Shiite activists are in prisons and [sentenced to] death.”
“Beheading of a young child in such manner must be addressed as soon as possible,” the group said in the press release.
The Shiite-Sunni tensions in Saudi Arabia broadly reflect the deep suspicion and simmering hostility between Iran (about 95 percent Shiite) and the Saudi kingdom (over 90 percent Sunni).
“The mutual enmity between the current two regional powerhouses goes back to the seventh century,” wrote David Kilgour, a human-rights activist, author, former lawyer and Canadian politician, in a special analysis for The Epoch Times.
“At times, outright war has loomed because Riyadh and Tehran also hold fundamental differences over Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and other corners of the Middle East, deploying various proxies to gain any advantage, often by force.”
Analysts said Iran and Saudi Arabia are currently fighting a proxy war in Yemen, a crisis that has sparked a widescale humanitarian calamity.