Posts Tagged 2012 Protests in Arabia
BY PATRICK COCKBURN
WEDNESDAY 05 OCTOBER 2011
Pro-democracy protests which swept the Arab world earlier in the year have erupted in eastern Saudi Arabia over the past three days, with police opening fire with live rounds and many people injured, opposition activists say.
Saudi Arabia last night confirmed there had been fighting in the region and that 11 security personnel and three civilians had been injured in al-Qatif, a large Shia city on the coast of Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province. The opposition say that 24 men and three women were wounded on Monday night and taken to al-Qatif hospital.
The Independent has been given exclusive details of how the protests developed by local activists. They say unrest began on Sunday in al-Awamiyah, a Shia town of about 25,000 people, when Saudi security forces arrested a 60-year-old man to force his son – an activist – to give himself up.
Ahmad Al-Rayah, a spokesman for the Society for Development and Change, which is based in the area, said that most of the civilians hit were wounded in heavy firing by the security forces after 8 pm on Monday. “A crowd was throwing stones at a police station and when a local human rights activist named Fadel al-Mansaf went into the station to talk to them and was arrested,” he said.
Mr Rayah added that “there have been protests for democracy and civil rights since February, but in the past the police fired into the air. This is the first time they have fired live rounds directly into a crowd.” He could not confirm if anybody had been killed.
The Shia of Saudi Arabia, mostly concentrated in the Eastern Province, have long complained of discrimination against them by the fundamentalist Sunni Saudi monarchy. The Wahhabi variant of Islam, the dominant faith in Saudi Arabia, holds Shia to be heretics who are not real Muslims.
The US, as the main ally of Saudi Arabia, is likely to be alarmed by the spread of pro-democracy protests to the Kingdom and particularly to that part of it which contains the largest oil reserves in the world. The Saudi Shia have been angered at the crushing of the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain since March, with many protesters jailed, tortured or killed, according Western human rights organisations.
Hamza al-Hassan, an opponent of the Saudi government from Eastern Province living in Britain, predicted that protests would spread to more cities. “I am frightened when I see video film of events because most people in this region have guns brought in over the years from Iraq and Yemen and will use them [against government security men],” he said. He gave a slightly different account of the start of the riots in al-Awamiyah, saying that two elderly men had been arrested by the security forces, one of whom had a heart attack.
“Since September there has been a huge presence of Saudi security forces in al-Qatif and all other Shia centers ” he said. Al-Qatif was the scene of similar protests in March, which were swiftly quashed by security forces.
The Saudi statement alleges that the recent protests were stirred up by an unnamed foreign power, by which it invariably means Iran. The interior ministry was quoted on Saudi television as saying that “a foreign country is trying to undermine national security by inciting strife in al-Qatif”. Saudi Arabia and the Sunni monarchies of the western Gulf have traditionally blamed Iran for any unrest by local Shia, but have never produced any evidence other than to point at sympathetic treatment of the demonstrations on Iranian television.
The 20 doctors in Bahrain sentenced to up to 15 years in prison last week say their interrogators tortured them repeatedly to force them to make false confessions that Iran was behind the protests. The counter-revolution in Bahrain was heralded by the arrival of a 1,500-strong Saudi-led military force, which is still there.
Mr Rayah, who flew from Saudi Arabia to Beirut to be free to talk about the protests, said: “People want a change and a new way of living.” He said that, in particular, they were demanding a constitution and a free assembly for the Eastern Province. He also wanted the Society for Development and Change legally registered.
Mr Hassan blamed the protests on the fact “that there has been no political breakthrough”.
“I am from the city of al-Safwa, which is very close to al-Awamiyah, and there is very high unemployment in both,” he said. Some 70 per cent of the Saudi population is believed to be under 30 and many do not have jobs. “We were hoping for municipal reforms and regional elections for years but we got nothing.”
He said reforms reported in the Western media were meaningless and that only a few Saudis had bothered to vote in the most recent local elections because local councils had no power.
Source: The Independent.
Tue Feb 21, 2012
Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry has defended the regime forces’ ruthless repression of anti-government protests and threatened to use an “iron fist” against protesters.
“It is the state’s right to confront those that confront it first… and the Saudi Arabian security forces will confront such situations … with determination and force and with an iron first,” the ministry said in a statement on Monday.
An interior ministry spokesman said the statement was released in reaction to a last week sermon delivered in the Qatif region in the Eastern Province, which took a swipe at the Saudi government’s handling of the protests.
Saudi authorities claim that the regime does not practice discrimination against the Shia minority, pointing a finger of blame at protesters.
Earlier on Thursday, several anti-regime protesters in the kingdom’s eastern province of Safwa were abducted.
Since February 2011, Saudi protesters have held demonstrations on an almost regular basis in the oil-rich Eastern Province, mainly in Qatif and the town of Awamiyah, calling for the release of all political prisoners, freedom of expression and assembly, and an end to widespread discrimination.
Saudi protesters also want an end to economic and religious discrimination against the oil-rich region. Several demonstrators have been killed and scores of activists have been arrested since the beginning of protests in the region.
Riyadh has intensified its crackdown on protesters since the beginning of 2012.
Fri Feb 10, 2012
Anti-regime Saudi activists have declared Saturday a day of public mourning for a protester who was killed by the security forces of the House of Saud in Eastern Province on Friday, Press TV reports.
Schools and shops will be closed as protesters plan to stage demonstrations in the region.
On Friday, one demonstrator was killed and two others were injured when Saudi security forces opened fire on protesters in the village of Awamiyah, in the oil-rich Eastern Province, after the Friday Prayers leader demanded that the Saudi monarchy be abolished. Anti-regime demonstrations were also held in the Eastern Province towns of Qatif, Tarut, and Rabi’iyah.
The incidents occurred one day after another anti-regime protester was killed and 14 people were seriously injured in Qatif.
Several of those injured in the deadly crackdown of the past two days are in a critical condition.
There have been demonstrations in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province on an almost daily basis over the past few months, with protesters calling for political reform.
Anti-government protests have intensified since November 2011, when security forces opened fire on protesters in Qatif, killing five people and leaving scores more injured.
Activists say there are over 30,000 political prisoners in Saudi Arabia.
Fri Feb 10, 2012
Saudi security forces have opened fire on anti-government protesters in the eastern part of the country, injuring at least two demonstrators and killing one in Awamiyah.
Witnesses say hundreds of Saudis took to the streets in the oil-rich east on Friday, one day after regime forces opened fire on protesters in Qatif, killing a demonstrator and injuring more than 14 others.
Some of the injured are reported to be in critical condition.
Protesters also chanted slogans against the ruling Al Saud family.
Protest rallies were reported in the cities of Qatif, Tarut, Rabi’iyah and Awamiyah.
At least one protester was killed and two others were injured after Saudi security forces opened fire on demonstrators in Awamiyah, where the Friday Prayers leader demanded an end to Al Saud rule.
Saudis have held peaceful demonstrations since February last year on an almost regular basis in the eastern region, demanding reforms, freedom of expression and the release of political prisoners.
Protesters also want an end to economic and religious discrimination against the oil-rich region. Several demonstrators have been killed and dozens of activists have been arrested since the beginning of protests in the region.
Riyadh has intensified its crackdown on protesters since the beginning of 2012.
Recent reports indicate that the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia has been the scene of “frequent riots and violence.”
QATIF, Saudi Arabia, Feb. 10 (UPI) — One person was killed during apparent clashes between Saudi forces and Shiite demonstrators in the country’s Eastern province, state media reported.
The official Saudi Press Agency reports that security officials in the region “came under heavy fire from masked men.” The clashes, the news agency said, left four “rioters” injured, including one who died before reaching a hospital.
An activist told The Wall Street Journal on condition of anonymity that a 21-year-old man died after being shot in the chest. The Journal notes its review of video allegedly from the incident indicated armored vehicles in the city of Qatif, though it didn’t appear the demonstrators were carrying weapons. Sounds similar to gunfire were heard in the background.
The official Kuwait News Agency reports that Eastern province was the scene of “frequent riots and violence.” It said there were casualties reported during the recent clashes, but declined to release official figures.
The report from Kuwait adds that Saudi authorities have arrested more than two dozen people connected to the unrest in the region.
The Saudi report added that security forces will “deal firmly” with cases where the safety of citizens is in jeopardy.
Source: United Press International (UPI).