Saudi police in show of force to prevent protests

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RIYADH – Saudi Arabia launched a massive security operation on Friday in a menacing show of force to deter protesters from a planned a “Day of Rage” to press for democratic reform in the kingdom. Illegal demonstrations were supposed to start after Muslim Friday prayers at noon but as the mosques emptied there were no signs of rallies, with security men manning checkpoints in key locations across several cities. In the strategic Olaya commercial centre of the capital Riyadh, where protesters were urged to congregate, hundreds of security personnel surrounded the mosque and inspected motorists’ identification documents.
Clerics sermonised against demonstrations, saying public agitation was unjustified under Islamic teachings and would only spread chaos. Online activists using Facebook and Twitter have called for a “Day of Rage” and a “Saudi March 11 revolution” demanding a fully elected parliament and ruler in this conservative Islamic monarchy. In the Eastern Province city of Al-Qateef, where three Shiite protesters were shot and wounded late Thursday, the situation was calm but tense with a heavy police presence, a witness told AFP.
A royal official said police responded to shooting from a man in the crowd, who was wounded by return fire and taken into custody. He did not confirm if any other people were injured. The demonstrators were calling for the release of nine Shiite prisoners who have been in jail for 14 years without trial, a witness told AFP. Saudi Arabia, with about a quarter of the world’s oil reserves, is a lynchpin of security in the Middle East and signs of unrest in the kingdom are being nervously monitored by the United States and other major powers. So far it has been spared the political tumult that has gripped neighbouring countries like Yemen and swept the autocratic leaders of Egypt and Tunisia from power.
Responding to Thursday’s incident, the United States said it was keeping an eye on the situation and restated its support for universal values of human rights. Australia warned its citizens in the country to “avoid all protests as they may turn violent.” The Human Rights First Society of Saudi Arabia strongly condemned the police shootings in Eastern Province, which has the biggest concentration of Shiites of any part of the mainly Sunni Muslim country. “HRFS condemns, with the loudest and clearest words, the use of all kinds of force to disperse demonstrators, particularly when live ammunition was used last night against the demonstrators in Qatif,” it said in a statement.
Activists are demanding far-reaching reform including representative government, an independent judiciary, the abolition of the secret police, the release of all political prisoners and guarantees of freedom of expression. On the economic front, they seek a minimum monthly wage of 10,000 riyals ($2,667) and jobs for Saudis, in a country where the unemployment rate is 10.5 percent and soars to around 30 percent in the 20-29 age group. The Gulf Civil Society Forum, a liberal pan-Gulf group, expected a low turnout because the call came from London-based dissidents who do not have a large following in the kingdom.
Other Facebook activists have called for nationwide protests on March 20. On his return from surgery in the United States last month, King Abdullah decreed benefits estimated at more than $30 billion such as housing services and unemployment payments. Crude prices turned lower in Asia on Friday as traders awaited further news on protests in Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, analysts said.

2 COMMENTS

  1. my name is mohammad nasir from pakistan and now i live in saudi arabia and i work in precast company and i live 3 years in saudi arabia now i will ur department.
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    date of birth…20/03/1988
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