The $35 billion question for the last month has been whether the recent wave of protests that erupted across the Arab world, from its far west in Morocco to US-occupied Iraq in the east, will reach the Saudi Kingdom. Today, Friday March 4, 2011, witnessed two small protests, one in the capital city Riyadh, the other in the al-Ahsa in the Eastern Province. These are not the first signs of protest in Saudi Arabia since the Egypt ian revolution succeeded in ousting Mubarak. There have been several other small protests at government buildings in different Saudi cities, all of which demanded an end to corruption, reforming labor laws, creating jobs, and releasing political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. However, unlike these, today’s protests--as well as the one in Qatif last night--have not been so silent. In the East, protesters’ demands largely centered around the release of political prisoners, and add to that an end to corruption and the squandering of public money in the capital.
The small, short protest in Riyadh took place after Friday prayers in front of the al-Rajhi Mosque. As many as 40-50 anti-government protesters were heard chanting “silmiyyeh, silmiyyeh” [peaceful, peaceful], as they condemned the riches that the Al Saud have been accumulating and demanded the release of political prisoners.
Soon after the demonstration started at al-Rajhi Mosque, police arrested at least one man involved with organizing the protest, Al Wad`ani. From the below video, it seems that some of those who were praying assisted the police in making the arrest:
In Hofuf, in the Eastern Province’s Al Ahsa region, protesters took to the streets after Friday prayers demanding the release of reformer Sheikh Tawfeeq Amer who protesters claim was arrested February 25 after calling in a sermon for Saudi Arabia to become a constitutional democracy.
[In above video, protesters chant "silmiyyeh silmiyyeh" [peaceful, peaceful] and "al-sha`b yurid ifraj `an al-sheikh tawfic" [the people want the release of Shaykh Tawfic].
Today’s Al Ahsa protest was preceded by one last night in the city of Qatif, also in the Eastern Province, in which 150-200 protesters demanded the release of all political prisoners who they claim are being held without trial. Anti-riot police allegedly broke up the peaceful demonstration.
According to Rasid, several confirmed arrests have been made in the aftermath of the Eastern Province’s protests.