Protests demanding democratic rights in general, as well as the release of Sheikh Tawfiq al-Amer (arrested in February this year for advocating constitutional monarchy), were held on Friday, 4 March 2011, in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.
The protests, albeit far from the magnitude seen in Arab intifadas elsewhere, still appear to have already extracted a concession from the House of Saud. The sheikh has been reportedly released.
The still growing protest wave, which began long before the sheikh’s arrest, has spread beyond the Eastern Province and hit Riyadh, too.
That must have been too much for the Saudi ruling class, who promptly issued a ban on all demonstrations while, according to Robert Fisk, “drafting up to 10,000 security personnel into its north-eastern Shia Muslim provinces.”
Monarchists in favor of the status quo, by the way, are also mobilizing on their own for their conservative cause, largely on the propaganda front so far, using a variety of social media from Facebook to YouTube. Their strategy — as has been the case with propaganda wars in some of the Arab intifadas, for instance in Egypt — boils down to stoking paranoid fear, especially about Iran’s influence.
Whether all the measures taken, by the regime and its supporters, to quell the unprecedented unrest can hold back the planned “Revolution of Longing” on the 11th of March remains to be seen.
Yoshie Furuhashi is Editor of MRZine.
Cf. ثورة حنين 11 مارس السعودية; Khuloud, “Agency and Its Discontents: Between Al Saud’s Paternalism and the Awakening of Saudi Youth” (Jadaliyya, 25 February 2011).