Saudi Arabia says won't tolerate protests

RIYADH Sat Mar 5, 2011 10:43am EST

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RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia warned potential protesters on Saturday that a ban on marches would be enforced, signaling the small protests by the Shi'ite minority in the oil-producing east would no longer be tolerated.

"The kingdom's regulations totally ban all sorts of demonstrations, marches, sit-ins," the interior ministry said in a statement, adding security forces would stop all attempts to disrupt public order.

Inspired by protests in other Arab countries there have been Shi'ite marches in the past few days in the east and unconfirmed activist reports of a small protest at a mosque in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Friday.

The U.S. ally has not faced protests of the scale that hit Egypt and Tunisia that toppled veteran leaders, but dissent has built up as unrest has spread in Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, Libya and Oman.

More than 17,000 have backed a call on Facebook to hold two demonstrations this month, the first one on Friday.

A loose alliance of liberals, moderate Islamists and Shi'ites have petitioned King Abdullah to allow elections in the kingdom which has no elected parliament, although even activists say they don't know how many of the almost 19 million Saudis back them.

Last month, Abdullah returned to Riyadh after a three-month medical absence and unveiled $37 billion in benefits for citizens in an apparent bid to curb dissent.

For about two weeks, Saudi Shi'ites have staged small protests in the kingdom's east, which holds much of the oil wealth of the world's top crude exporter and is near Bahrain, scene of protests by majority Shi'ites against their Sunni rulers.

Shi'ite protests in Saudi Arabia started in the area of the main city Qatif and its neighbor Awwamiya and spread to the town of Hofuf on Friday. The demands were mainly for the release of prisoners they say are held without trial.

Saudi Shi'ites often complain they struggle to get senior government jobs and other benefits like other citizens.

The government of Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy without an elected parliament that usually does not tolerate public dissent, denies these charges.

The interior ministry said demonstrations violated Islamic law and the kingdom's traditions, according to a statement carried by state news agency SPA.

(Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Matthew Jones)

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Comments (18)
alreaud wrote:
Goodbye al-Saud, all things pass, and a new day dawns in the Middle East. Cagafi also banned protests… Wake up to the new day or go with the night.

I don’t think that people want a lot of your nonsense in your neck of the woods any more, al-Saud, LOL!

Mar 05, 2011 9:11am EST  --  Report as abuse
go2goal wrote:
And I’m sure we’ll hear that Hillary Clinton calls for calm and no protests in Saudi Arabia while demanding immediate change in Libya and Iran.

Gee…I wonder if it has anything to do with a nation bowing to the US Government’s policies and agenda and OIL….and not about people’s freedom and basic human rights.

Hillary…you are not different than Rice or Kissinger or the rest…you represent the evil empire…the US Government…which is very different than representing the US common people.

Mar 05, 2011 11:39am EST  --  Report as abuse
wolf359st wrote:
…so basically the dictator we here support with our tax dollars… is going to put down anyone requesting reforms…

Gee and one of their top princes Alwaleed bin-Talal is the second largest shareholder in Fox.

No conspiracy there…

Mar 05, 2011 11:55am EST  --  Report as abuse
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