Big stakes in Saudi Arabia protests – by Ash Pemberton

Editor’s note: Here is a selection of recent articles on the uprising for human rights and democracy in Saudi Arabia. Pakistanis will keep ignoring it because of their Shia phobia and Wahhabi philia. The West (US) will keep ignoring it because of their ‘Oil over Democracy’ strategy.


The pro-democracy protests in Saudi Arabia and neighbouring Bahrain have the potential to have a huge impact on world politics. The stakes are very high.

In Bahrain, Saudi Arabia’s tiny island neighbour, protesters have mobilised in their hundreds of thousands for weeks to demand the Khalifah royal family be removed from power. Bahrain is of great strategic importance for the West. It hosts the US Navy’s fifth fleet and a US airbase. This helps ensure US control of the oil-rich Persian Gulf region and the ability to maintain a constant threat against Iran.

The protests in Bahrain are worrying the Islamic fundamentalist monarchy that governs Saudi Arabia, the US’s most important ally in the Arab world.

The Saudis are concerned that success by Bahraini protesters could inspire a similar revolt in Saudi Arabia — especially in the oil-rich eastern areas.

Saudi authorities announced a ban on public protests after several rallies across the country, the British Guardian said on March 6.

The Australian said on March 11 that police fired on demonstrators the previous day.

A number of small gatherings occurred in late January outside government buildings, “protesting their deteriorating living conditions, rising unemployment (in one of the strongest economies in the world), and increasingly corrupt and stagnant bureaucracy”, said on January 29.

A small protest occurred in the eastern city of Qatif on February 24, demanding the release of prisoners held for long periods without trial, Reuters said on February 26.

On March 4, there were protests in the eastern region and a smaller protest in the capital Riyadh, the March 8 Guardian said.

The protests in the eastern region primarily called for the release from prison of Sheikh Tawfiq al-Amer, who was freed on March 6. He had been arrested after giving a sermon calling for a constitutional monarchy.

A group of young Saudi men and women released a statement on March 5 listing a series of demands for progressive reform of Saudi society.

The list included: giving women full rights; addressing unemployment, poverty and cost of living issues; fighting corruption, nepotism and religious discrimination; ending enforcement of religious rules by the state; improving the education system and expanding cultural life.

Saudi Arabia is ruled by an absolute monarchy that has enjoyed extremely close relations with the US for 75 years. The government, led by King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, enforces its own version of strict Islamic law, which includes gender segregation, suppression of religious minorities and no freedom of speech.

Jeffrey Rudolph said in an article posted at on February 28: “This relationship highlights the gross hypocrisy of US foreign policy: fundamentalism and dictatorship in the Arab world is only condemned when it comes garbed in anti-Americanism.

“The US and Saudi governments have had a clear long-term agreement. The Saudis agree to supply oil in accordance with US needs and to reinvest the resulting revenue in US assets and arms.

“In return, the US provides protection to the Royal family regardless of its internal repression and extremist ideology.”

However, the relationship is about more than simply supply of oil. US author and political analyst Noam Chomsky said in a June 2007 Monthly Review article: “What has been central to [US] planning [concerning Middle East energy resources] is control, not access, an important distinction … Such control gives the United States ‘veto power’ over its industrial rivals.”

The Saudi regime has been largely stable, but the revolt in Bahrain is causing panic. The Saudi government said it would use “all its capabilities” to support Bahrain’s rulers, Associated Press said on February 22.

Source: Green Left


Protests hit eastern Saudi Arabia, calm in capital
HASSAN AMMAR, Associated Press
March 13, 2011

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Several hundred people protested in heavily Shiite eastern Saudi Arabia Friday but hundreds of police prevented protests in the capital calling for democratic reforms inspired by the wave of unrest sweeping the Arab world.
Police blocked roads and set up random checkpoints in Riyadh, searching residents and vehicles around a central mosque as large numbers of people gathered for Friday prayers. Witnesses said groups of policemen manned street corners and intersections and a helicopter flew over the city.
By midday, no protesters had showed up in the capital and the police presence significantly decreased.
In the eastern city of Qatif and nearby areas where the country’s minority Shiites live, several hundred people staged protests, shouting slogans calling for reforms and equality between Shiites and Sunnis. In Qatif, the protesters were surrounded by armored personnel carriers and dozens of riot police in full gear.
On Thursday, violence broke out at another protest in Qatif, when Saudi police opened fire to disperse demonstrators. At least three protesters and one police officer were wounded. Friday’s protest was largely peaceful.
Although protests have so far been confined to small rallies in the east, activists have been emboldened by other uprisings in the region that have toppled longtime rulers of Tunisia and Egypt. The Saudi activists have set up online groups calling for protests in Riyadh on Friday.
Any violence at Friday’s planned protests could reverberate through the world’s markets because of the importance of Saudi oil exports.
Security officials on Friday said security measures around state-run oil giant Saudi Aramco and its oil facilities in the east were beefed up protectively, in case of any violence. The company is based in Dhahran district on the kingdom’s eastern coast.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said the new measures were “considered normal under the current circumstances,” referring to the online call for protests in the area.

Investors are sensitive to any sign of upheaval in Saudi Arabia because the OPEC leader has been using its spare capacity to make up for output lost amid the violent uprising against Libya’s government. When news broke that Saudi Arabian police fired shots to break up the protest Thursday, prices soared $3 in just 12 minutes.

Discord is common between Saudi authorities and the country’s Shiites, who make up 10 percent of the kingdom’s 23 million citizens. The Shiites have long complained of discrimination, saying they are barred from key positions in the military and government and are not given an equal share of the country’s wealth.

The pro-Western monarchy is concerned protests could open footholds for Shiite powerhouse Iran and has accused foreigners of stoking the protests, which are officially forbidden.

In Riyadh, the Interior Ministry organized a tour for a few journalists who were escorted by police around the city Friday. At one point in front of a government building, the journalists encountered a man, Khaled al-Juhni, standing outside a government building, shouting calls for more freedoms.

Police and journalists watched as the man criticized the regime as a “police state” and “a big prison” before he got in his car and left.
Despite the ban on demonstrations and a warning that security forces will act against them, protesters demanding the release of political prisoners took to the streets Thursday for a second day in the eastern city of Qatif. Several hundred protesters, some wearing masks to avoid being identified, marched after dark asking for “Freedom for prisoners.”
Police, who were lined up opposite the protesters, fired percussion bombs followed by gunfire, causing the crowd to scatter, a witness said. Other witnesses said the protesters threw Molotov cocktails and stones from rooftops on the security troops.

Mainly Sunni Saudi Arabia has struggled to stay ahead of the unrest that has led to the ouster of the Egyptian and Tunisian leaders in recent weeks.

Last month, the ultraconservative Saudi government announced an unprecedented economic package worth an estimated $36 billion that will give Saudis interest-free home loans, unemployment assistance and debt forgiveness.

At the same time, it reiterated that demonstrations are forbidden in the kingdom because they contradict Islamic laws and society’s values and said security forces were authorized to act against anyone violating the ban.

So far the demonstrations have been small, concentrated in the east among Shiites demanding the release of detainees. But activists have been emboldened by other uprisings have set up Facebook groups calling for protests in the capital, Riyadh, on Friday to demand democratic reforms.

One such group garnered more than 30,000 supporters. The group called the “Honein Revolution March 11” has listed a number of mosques in 17 Saudi cities for protesters to rally.

The group says it strives to have elected officials in Saudi Arabia, including the ruler.



سعودی عرب میں مظاہرہ

سعودی عرب میں پولیس نے ملک کے مشرقی شہر قطیف میں مظاہرین پر فائرنگ کی ہے۔

اس واقعے میں کم از کم ایک شخص کےشدید زخمی ہونے کی اطلاع ملی ہے۔

اطلاعات کے مطابق پولیس نے ایک مظاہرے کو منتشر کرنے کے لیے ہوائی فائرنگ کی اور سٹن گرنیڈ استعمال کیے۔

قطیف شہر میں مظاہرین ملک میں سیاسی اصلاحات کا مطالبہ کر رہے تھے۔

حکومت کی طرف سے شدید وارنگ کے باوجود درجنوں کی تعداد میں لوگ اس مظاہرے میں شریک ہوئے۔

انٹرنیٹ کے ذریعے لوگوں کو جمعہ کو ایک بڑا مظاہرہ کرنے کے لیے آمادہ کیا جا رہا ہے۔

مبصرین نے خبردار کیا ہے کہ سعودی عرب میں تشدد کے کسی واقع کی صورت میں
تیل کی عالمی قیمتوں پر اثر پڑے گا

Qatif demonstration protests

Demonstration in Qatif (saudi arabia) calling for the release of 15 Shiite prisoners held for more than 15 years without trial. The protestors called for freedom.



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