Saudi Arabia conducts mass execution of 81 people

Riyadh's "Chop Chop Square," where public executions are carried out
(Image credit: mtcurado/iStock)

Saudi Arabia's state-run Saudi Press Agency reported Saturday that the kingdom had carried out a mass execution of 81 people, The Hill reports.

According to The Hill and NPR, those executed — a group comprising 73 Saudis, seven Yemenis, and one Syrian — had been convicted of terrorism, murder, kidnapping, torture, rape, and weapons smuggling. Some were reportedly associated with al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and Yemen's Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. It was the largest known mass execution in the country's modern history.

NPR notes that while Saudi state media did not specify how the prisoners were executed, "death-row inmates" in Saudi Arabia "typically are beheaded" publicly. Reuters reports that since 2013, some Saudi executions have been carried out by firing squad.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Between 2015 and 2019, the kingdom averaged over 150 executions per year. In the same time period, the United States — which has almost ten times the population of Saudi Arabia — averaged less than 25 per year.

The kingdom carried out 27 executions in 2020, with the large drop-off due mostly to a moratorium on death sentences for drug crimes, and 67 in 2021, according to ABC News and the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights. Saturday's mass execution killed more people in one day than were executed in either of the previous two years.

Axios reported last week that U.S. officials, having cut off the supply of Russian oil to the U.S., are considering a trip to Saudi Arabia to persuade its rulers to increase oil production. President Biden previously promised to turn the kingdom into a "pariah" due to its human rights violations, especially the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Grayson Quay

Grayson Quay was the weekend editor at His writing has also been published in National Review, the Pittsburgh Post-GazetteModern AgeThe American ConservativeThe Spectator World, and other outlets. Grayson earned his M.A. from Georgetown University in 2019.