Thousands back call to hold protests in Saudi Arabia

March 8, 2011 - 0:0

RIYADH (Agencies) – Tens of thousands of Saudis have backed the call to hold demonstrations in the kingdom on Friday, according to media reports published on Monday.

The “Day of Rage” protests initially had been scheduled for Friday but some reports said on Monday that now the protests will take place on Monday.
The demonstrations against the government are planned throughout the country to demand an end to the royal family's monopoly over policymaking.
Last Tuesday, BBC Arabic reported unrest in Saudi Arabia was growing. After the broadcast, Saudi security and intelligence forces raised their alert to the highest level, perceiving the broadcast as a coded call to opposition groups to try to oust 88-year-old King Abdallah.
After the BBC broadcast, government officials blocked some websites to cut down participation in the demonstrations, an Israeli intelligence website said.
In another development, Saudi Arabia's top clerics have condemned calls for protests as un-Islamic, Al-Hayat newspaper reported Monday, ahead of a demonstration planned in the kingdom later this week.
The Council of Senior Scholars said that “reform and advice do not take place by protests or methods that lead to sedition.” Xinhua reported.
The interior ministry over the weekend issued a ban on all demonstrations, following protests held by minority Shia groups in the oil-production eastern province to demand the release of prisoners they say are long held without trial.
It added that the security forces had been given authority to take actions with those who sought to undermine the country's security and stability.
Saudi Shias complain that it is hard for them to get senior government jobs and other benefits.
Protests in Saudi Arabia started in the area of the main city town of Qatif and neighboring Awwamiya and spread to the town of Hofuf in recent days. The demands were mainly for the release of prisoners they say are held without trial.
The government of Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy without an elected parliament that usually does not tolerate public dissent, denies these charges.
22 protesters arrested
Saudi Arabia's security forces have detained at least 22 minority Shias who protested last week against discrimination, activists said Sunday, Reuters reported.
Saudi Shias have staged small demonstrations in the Eastern Province, which holds much of the oil wealth of the world's top crude exporter. The province is near Bahrain, also the scene of protests in recent weeks by majority Shias against their Sunni rulers.
“Twenty-two were arrested on Thursday plus four on Friday, so the total is 26. This was all in Qatif,” said rights activist Ibrahim al-Mugaiteeb, who heads the independent Saudi-based Human Rights First Society.
A Shia activist in Qatif, the province's main town, said he knew of 22 arrests. Interior Ministry officials could not be reached for comment.
The protests started in Qatif and neighboring Awwamiya and spread to the town of Hofuf on Friday. The protesters mainly demanded the release of prisoners who they say are being held without trial. -