I don’t particularly like chasing news, but Saudi Arabia is some awfully big news.
The riot started when the Saudi police arrested the elderly father of a pro-democracy leader in hiding to force him to give himself up. The protests in this area are primarily by Shia Muslims, a group that is large in other Islamic countries, particularly Iran, but a minority religion in Saudi Arabia. The extremely conservative Wahhabi sect of the Sunni Muslims do not view the Shia as true Muslims, and the Shia complain of poor treatment. The blog Tremble the Devil gives some background.
A kettle which has been just on the edge of simmering for a good long time now finally began to boil over earlier this week, as violent protests erupted in Qatif, a city in the eastern part of Saudi Arabia that like almost every city in that region of the nation is majority Shia. And like almost every other city in the Shia-dominated eastern edges of Saudi Arabia – it sits directly on top of the world’s largest remaining easily-accessible oil reserves.
Instability has been built into the region since the founding of the Saudi Kingdom, a geopolitical reality that bodes disaster for American geopolitical goals in the region. Namely, securing access to the lifeblood of Western civilization:
The Shia of Saudi Arabia, mostly concentrated in the Eastern Province, have long complained of discrimination against them by the fundamentalist Sunni Saudi monarchy. The Wahhabi variant of Islam, the dominant faith in Saudi Arabia, holds Shia to be heretics who are not real Muslims.
The primary report I have seen is from the Independent. It is possible that other news groups are having a hard time finding sources.
Insecure Saudis crack down on freedom protest
By Patrick Cockburn, (U.K.) Independent, 5 October 2011, (hat tip: Zero Hedge)
Pro-democracy protests which swept the Arab world earlier in the year have erupted in eastern Saudi Arabia over the past three days, with police opening fire with live rounds and many people injured, opposition activists say.
Saudi Arabia last night confirmed there had been fighting in the region and that 11 security personnel and three civilians had been injured in al-Qatif, a large Shia city on the coast of Saudi Arabia's oil-rich Eastern Province. The opposition say that 24 men and three women were wounded on Monday night and taken to al-Qatif hospital.
Ahmad Al-Rayah, a spokesman for the Society for Development and Change, which is based in the area, said that most of the civilians hit were wounded in heavy firing by the security forces after 8pm on Monday. "A crowd was throwing stones at a police station and when a local human rights activist named Fadel al-Mansaf went into the station to talk to them and was arrested," he said.
|Saudi Rioting shown on Youtube (link)|
Glen Cary, Bloomberg Business Week, 5 October 2011
Saudi Arabia vowed to use “an iron fist” after 11 members of the security forces were attacked and injured during unrest in a Shiite Muslim town in the east, the official Saudi Press Agency said.
The government accused an unidentified foreign country of seeking to undermine the stability of the kingdom as a result of the violence in Awwamiya, in which the assailants, some on motorcycles, used machine guns and Molotov cocktails, the Riyadh-based news service reported late yesterday. A man and two women were also injured, it said.
Saudi security forces were fired upon from side streets after they halted a small demonstration in Awwamiya, Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Mansour al-Turki said in a phone interview today. “It wasn’t a confrontation between the police and the people,” he said. “I don’t expect this to be repeated. It was an isolated incident.”
Note the discrepancy in tone between the two reports.