When he got started in his unusual line of work back in 1998, Muhammad Saad al-Beshi suffered from “stage fright” because so many people were watching him. But the nervousness soon left him, just like his victim’s head.
“The criminal was tied and blindfolded. With one stroke of the sword I severed his head. It rolled meters away,” said al-Beshi, Saudi Arabia’s top executioner, according to a story in the Saudi daily Arab News.
Muhammad Saad al-Beshi (Photo courtesy of Arab News)
And how does al-Beshi feel about killing people for a living? In the interview, reported also by the BBC, al-Beshi said he’s “very proud to do God’s work.” Conceding that he has executed numerous women, as well as men, he hastened to add: “Despite the fact that I hate violence against women, when it comes to God’s will, I have to carry it out.”
Al-Beshi expressed indifference about the number of beheadings he was required to carry out.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” he said in the interview. “Two, four, 10 – as long as I’m doing God’s will, it doesn’t matter how many people I execute.”
The death penalty can be prescribed for many offences in the Saudi kingdom, which is under strict Islamic or Shari’a law. Not only murder and rape, but armed robbery, drug trafficking and repeated drug use – and even apostasy – are capital offenses.
What about the methods of execution? Sometimes, said Al-Beshi, he shoots convicted women to death. “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, according to the Arab News interview.
“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. “No one is afraid of me. I have a lot of relatives, and many friends at the mosque, and I live a normal life like everyone else.”
Of his prized sword, a “gift” from the Saudi government, al-Beshi notes, “People are amazed how fast it can separate the head from the body.”
But, once the order is given, he instructs the prisoner to recite an affirmation of Muslim faith, or “Shahada.” “When they get to the execution square, their strength drains away. Then I read the execution order, and at a signal I cut the prisoner’s head off,” he said.
Al-Beshi says his unusual occupation causes “no drawbacks for my social life.” In fact, the “contented” father of seven even trains the next generation of executioners. He is especially proud that his son is walking in his father’s footsteps.
Beshi demonstrating proper execution technique (Photo courtesy of Arab News)
In addition to executions, al-Beshi also specializes in amputations of hands or legs.
“I use a special sharp knife, not a sword. When I cut off a hand I cut it from the joint. If it is a leg the authorities specify where it is to be taken off, so I follow that.”
Since forgiveness on the part of the victim’s family can result in a reprieve for the condemned criminal, al-Beshi actually visits the victim’s family before executing the convict, in hopes the victim’s kin will forgive the perpetrator.
“I always have that hope, until the very last minute, and I pray to God to give the criminal a new lease of life,” he said, according to the BBC account.