Taking to Streets in Saudi Arabia

On the 19th of December, a few hundred people demonstrated in Qatif, a predominantly Shiite area east of Saudi Arabia, to protest the Israeli siege on Gaza. The protesters lifted posters of Hizbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasarallah and chanted anti-Israeli and anti-US slogans. According to the website Rasid, the demonstration ended peacefully under the eyes of security forces who watched closely. However, tens of young men who demonstrated were arrested in the following week.

After Israel started their barbarian attack on Gaza last Saturday, thousands of angry demonstrators took to the streets in Egypt, Jordan, Yemen and other countries. In Saudi Arabia, where the law does not give people the right to demonstrate publicly, more than 60 political and human rights activists signed a letter to the Ministry of Interior asking for permission to hold a peaceful demonstration in Riyadh.

While activists in Riyadh were waiting for a reply from MOI, protesters in Qatif demonstrated again on Monday, but this time they were faced by the security forces and riot police who fired rubber bullets to break up the protest. Mansour al-Turki, spokesman of MOI, denied that such protest took place. “Street protests are banned in the Kingdom and that the security forces will intervene to enforce the ban,” he added. His denial is not surprising, but everyone knows that people of Qatif have a long history in street protests with major demonstrations held in 1979, 2002 and 2006.

Four activists who signed the letter were summoned to meet a senior official at MOI today who also said the country’s regulations do not allow such activities. The activists said nothing in the local laws bans street protests but they signed a pledge that they will not hold the demonstration which was planned to take place tomorrow in Nahda Street. Another activist who did not sign the letter said he does not need a permission from anyone to protest. Khalid al-Umair said that he and other activists will be there tomorrow “because we are simply exercising our natural right in expressing our opinion peacefully.”

This was the first time for a group of activists to ask for such permission, and it was expected that MOI would not give a positive response. Although the request was denied, it seemed to encourage more people to take similar steps. More than 200 students at King Abdul-Aziz University in Jeddah sent a letter today to the rector asking for permission to hold a demonstration but he refused saying the university is not the right place to protest.

People should be allowed to protest, but it seems that the government is afraid that people will realize the power of public demonstration and later use it not just to protest against Israel but also to demand their rights. Giving permission to these demonstrations would set a precedent that the government clearly doesn’t want to deal with its results and consequences. 2009 will be interesting.

UPDATE: Khalid al-Umair and Mohammed Abdullah al-Otaibi have been arrested Thursday noon.

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35 thoughts on “Taking to Streets in Saudi Arabia

  1. Well, I have an opinion on protesting. If people protested “peacefully” and the protest march wouldn’t block any roads neither would it lead to any havoc, then I’m green, but look what has happened in Greece! people shattered windows, broke into grocery stores and many others infiltrated the crowd and caused angst.

    People first have to learn “How to Protest”, as our people leak many “How to” guides, thus, troubles continue happening.

    Here is a glimpse on the “How to” guide(s) that MUST be taught in Saudi Arabia:

    “How to trade in Stock Markets”, “How to deal with women”, “How to deal with a Foreigner”, “How to accept other opinions”, “How to be tolerant”, “How to read a book”, “How to read a book volume 2”, “How to read a book volume 3”, “How to serve your society”, “How to hit the books”, “How to express your opinions” and “How to Protest”.

    Those were some “samples” in mind, but you know, the list goes on = )


  2. Thank God! In my opinion the Khaleej has been way too quiet for way to long. Admittedly my interactions with the people of the Khaleej, has been more than awful, sad to say. But I am more than thrilled to know that there is some movement and action going on in that part of the world.

  3. To me it’s just like the dog who barks at the mountain. Nothing happens.

    Arab governments like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Arab states ought to send their military to defend the Palestinians. Be real men, once and for all. Go and help your Muslim brothers there and do something for a change!

  4. People should have the right to speak their peace, period. And, why you wouldn’t be allowed to have a peaceful protest against the Israeli action in Gaza is beyond me since the Saudi government has no love for Israel, and doesn’t recognize them as a country (i think).

    Mr Nighttime…the Palestinians have the right to fight, still…for land that was stolen from them, and thus placed them in what is comparable to an apartheid regime. REMEMBER…Israel was once a country called Palestine…that now no longer exists. Would you just bend over and take it if another group of countries (UN Resolution) came in and gave part of your country to another group, gave it another name, and put you under their legal systems; which is religiously racist (because we all know that the Israeli’s/jews think they’re God’s chosen people; which means they think they’re better than everyone else)?

    I’m tired of the Palestinians being described as “terrorists”. The word terrorists is mostly associated with Muslims and Islam. However, a lot of Palestinians are Christians. Not that it should matter, but this is just another example of how words are used to dehumanize people. The facts are this…the jews took land (based on an effed up UN resolution) that belonged to the Palestinians (remember the country used to be called Palestine) with the forming of Isreal in 1948, and have been trying ever since to get all “non-jews” (i.e. Arabs) out of the country. Palestine was a country…now it no longer exists. When this resolution was made up the Palestinians were suppose to have their own country within 7 years!! That should have happened by 1955. It’s now 2008!!!

    I look at the conflict like this: during the time of World War II, Black Americans were being killed, denied basic civil rights, and being strung up (with no justice) to get basic rights in the USA (while also fighting their wars). And…we know the United States’ wealth was built on the back of slaves. So…what if they took half of those old slave holding states and gave it to the Black people and told the whites, you gotta get out, or get in line and report to these people? White folks would still be fighting today for that land; land that belonged to their grandparents. So…I ask; shouldn’t the Palestinians fight for what was theirs, and was stolen?

    It’s complete BS. If the jews had no where to go after the war…they should have given them part of Germany. That would have been a fair and just resolution.

  5. BCIS:

    You state:

    “the Palestinians have the right to fight,”

    I believe this to be incorrect, if by fight you mean the current path of violence.

    Violence has been ongoing since the 1940s regarding this issue.

    The correct path, and the ONLY path is the path of non-violence.

    Non-violence can and SHOULD include non-violent resistence.

    But submission to the atavistic urges towards violence will only weaken and degrade the violent entities, and will accomplish none of the desired goals.

    Moreover, further violence or calls to violence reinforces global prejudiced voices that describe Arabs and Muslims as essentially little better than wild animals with whom no rational dialogue can be held.

    As Arabs, we should exclusively struggle for rights using non-violence and should renounce all use of violence and should publicly before the world media surrender all instruments of violence.

    The path of non-violent resistance is the only path to surmount our enemies.

    If we choose violence, we have chosen the path to failure.

  6. Loay Al Shareef: ROFL!!!! @ ”How to read a book volume three”
    I loved all of your suggestions of ”How to” guides!

    If a government won’t allow people to speak what’s on their mind it of course means that they are either afraid, or they know that what’s in their people’s minds isn’t very flattering. Most probably both.

    No normal, selfassured honest government disallows freedom of speech and protest marches.
    Its the lithmus-test for the right to exist of a government.

  7. @Andrew

    “Violence has been ongoing since the 1940s regarding this issue”

    so have the negotiations, and I guess you are aware that negotiations haven’t actually moved the progress one inch forward.

    “If we choose violence, we have chosen the path to failure”

    I strenuously disagree with you, all people whom their homes were taken away from them HAVE THE RIGHT TO FIGHT AND RESIST, with all due respect sir, you’re talking now under a good A/C with your tea cup and coco puffs, you didn’t feel how bombing your residence and displacing your family members would be like.

    “Struggling” against the occupiers is a legitimate right, no one can argue about that, but it always comes as an exception to the Palestinians because the conflict is actually a religious-historic-Toratic conflict, not simply a political one.

    Yes, the resistance has to be wise and not impetuous, it has to comprehend the consequences of its attacks and when to attack and where to attack and when to continue fighting and when to have a truce, the resistance also has to be organized and avoid targeting women and children, it has to have code of ethics, and has to put a goal for their fight, to liberate their territories from the occupiers.

    But eliminating the military option from the list of options will make you weaker and will leave your enemy no other best option than annihilating you and your people.

    They can negotiate, but at the same time, they can fight back, God [in our faith] granted them this right.

  8. Andrew: I will state that YES, the violence needs to end, however, we need the US and western news media to stop describing Palestinians as “terrorists”; when the facts are they are fighting to get back land that was stolen from them. The only real solution is to give the Palestinians they’re own country (which was part of the original UN Resolution); one in which they do NOT have to answer to, or fall under the rule of the Israeli’s.

    So what…do you think that if the Palestinians, had a sit it, or marched down the streets (because you know the Israeli’s will not even allow them to gather), that the Israeli’s would give back their land, lift the curfews, get out of the occupied territories, or even treat them as equals? In my opinion, they will not. They will not stop until they have all that land and the Palestinians are not on it.

    My whole point is…REMEMBER how this mess got started in the first place, and deal from that point, with some sensitivities towards the Palestinians and what was done to them. I stand and will continue to stand by my opinion that they have the right to be PISSED OFF, and ANGRY about the land that was stolen from them and when you “F” with people, you get, what you get.

  9. “REMEMBER…Israel was once a country called Palestine…that now no longer exists. Would you just bend over and take it if another group of countries (UN Resolution) came in and gave part of your country to another group, gave it another name, and put you under their legal systems; which is religiously racist (because we all know that the Israeli’s/jews think they’re God’s chosen people; which means they think they’re better than everyone else)?”

    Which is why I’m an atheist.

    The divisions in this world over religious prattle have more than been the cause of multiple horror, which is at least in part the cause of what is happening in the world today. While people should have the right to believe whatever they choose, when it crosses over into extremism it is time for it to be smacked down.

    Please spare me the argument that,

    “which is religiously racist (because we all know that the Israeli’s/jews think they’re God’s chosen people; which means they think they’re better than everyone else)?”

    You’re going to sit there and tell me that what you claim to be racist religious/legal practices is any worse than Wahabbism, or any other form of religious law, Sharia included? You’re going to sit there and claim that Jews are the only ones that claim that they are chosen specifically by God? Unless I have been living under a rock somewhere, I seem to recall that many adherents of Islam make the same claim at one point or another.

    This is more than simply a question of whose country is whose. Countries of the world have been shattered in the past. After WWI, that Balkans and Germany were carved up like a Sunday roast. Now, you may argue that this was the spoils of war, and that Germany and other nations of the region deserved what they got. The fact remains however that in war, territory has always been lost, divided, what-have-you. What happened in Palestine in 1948 was no different. Perhaps it shouldn’t have happened the way it did, but the world thought otherwise. You speak of giving Jews part of Germany after WWII. Why? Their claim to what you refer to as Palestine is based in the same religious belief that Muslim’s have. Why should their claim be any less valid than yours?

    Then again, you had groups back then such as the Irgun, who were essentially terrorists, and who were fighting what they saw as the British occupation of their rightful land. Again, in no small way not just because of politics, or Zionism, but because of religion.

    The Irgun were the counterpart of Hamas, Hezbollah, and whatever groups there are that make their claim that they are fighting for the rights of “their people.” At the end of the day, innocents are slaughtered on both sides in the name of God.

    And people wonder why I’m an atheist. Both sides should grow up, and start acting like rational human beings.

  10. #bcis
    ‘However, a lot of Palestinians are Christians’.
    – Yeah but not anymore
    And in Gaza
    In Gaza, there is a small Christian minority of about 3000 people, among a population of 1,500,000. After the Fatah-Hamas conflict in February 2006, a number of Christian shops, such as Internet cafes, pharmacies and music stores, were attacked by unknown assailants.[21] Some of these attacks have been claimed by a little-known extremist Islamic organization, calling itself the Swords of Truth.[21]

    Some muslims simply can’t spell and act the word tolerance

  11. Nightime: I’m NOT religious. I’m NOT muslim. I wouldn’t even claim atheism…since in it’s extreme can be it’s own form of religion. I’m agnostic. So you’re whole argument is wasted since you’ve assumed INCORRECTLY that I’m religious and that I’m Muslim, and thus siding with the Palestinians for those reasons.

    The reason I said they should have received part of Germany, is because the German’s (Hitler’s regime) was responsible for the jews being scattered all over the world, and thus lead to Isreal being created. So…YES…I still think the better solution would have been to give them part of Germany. But the jews wanted Isreal, because they lay some biblical claim to it. It’s BS.

    And, I will ALWAYS believe that people have the right to fight, when they’ve been effed with. So…you can turn the other cheek for them to smack that as well…but I chose to hit back…so next time they’ll think twice.

    Just because many countries have been shattered in the past doesn’t make this situation with Israel/Palestine right.

    I would suggest you take some of your rationalism, and add a dose of compassion and you too may become a human being.

  12. Loay Al-Shareef:

    I will not debate the issue of rights.

    My sisters and mother have heard their whole lives from the Committee that the Committee “in our faith” {as you say} has the Divine right and even the divine duty to harass them for petty offenses in fashion, that there are divine rights [according to the Committee] to bar cinemas, to restrict my ability to freely read books of my own choosing, etc.

    I have heard over the years endlessly of the rights that exist from religion and other sources to abridge the abilities of others, including myself, to engage in a variety of peaceful activities.

    A debate on what rights exist is fruitless, as I am from a country that denies me rights that the United Nations would say that I deserve to hold.

    And, now I hear that either individuals or a non-governmental organization — Hamas — have a right to violence.

    I accept that national governments [President Abbas] must have a right to utilize violence.

    But, the notion that individuals and NGOs have a right to freely exercise violence is not sustainable.

    More importantly, what I have said and will always say is that violence is not a solution, notwithstanding all the forms of its usage that have been employed or attempted.

    Violence has, after all, been employed for 60 years to no effect.

    Non-violence and non-violent resistance has never been employed.

    Non-violence toppled the British Empire in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.

    Non-violence would force changes that violence has never accomplished.

    We must do better than we have.

    We must use our intellect and not merely succumb to emotionalism.

  13. BCIS
    “The reason I said they should have received part of Germany, is because the German’s (Hitler’s regime) was responsible for the jews being scattered all over the world, and thus lead to Isreal being created.”

    Before II WW jews have been living in Russia, in Germany, in Poland. In fact they have been living all over Europe and all over the world.
    Hitles was not responsible for the jews being scattered all over the world but he was responsible for murdering jews in concentration camps, mainly located in conquered Poland.
    My advice to you is – read history.

    “And, I will ALWAYS believe that people have the right to fight, when they’ve been effed with. ”

    And with that statement you condemn majority of us to war, war and more war. Because:

    Kurds need their own country so they should kill Turks, Iranians, Syrians and (some) Iraqis.

    Baluchis in Iran and Pakistan should kill Iranians and Pakistanians because they also deserve their own country.

    Kashmiri in India should kill Indian hindu because – hmm- they want “free” Kashmir

    Armenians in Turkey should kill Turks because they had their own country there before.

    Iranians should invade Bahrain because, hell, that was their country, at least so sometimes they claim.

    Lebanese should bunch together and kill themselves some Syrians, as they occupy some of their land. Or the land which was their before.

    and so on and so forth.

    If all of us living on Earth will take to heart your advice we will kill each other for sure.

  14. ella…read your history (or if your reading abilitiies are limited; get the history channel)…the reason the jews were scattered all over the world was because of Hitler’s invasions into these countries. A lot of jews, those who had money and connections got out of Germany; those who waited too late and couldn’t get out of Germany were shipped to concentration camps. The creation of Israel was a direct result of World War II; which started when Germany invaded one country too many.

    We could keep going down the line and back down through history. But…we’re here today. I sympathize with the Palestinians, Period.

    “If all of us living on Earth will take to heart your advice we will kill each other for sure.”

    Take a look around…WE ARE KILLING EACH OTHER.

  15. Israel bungled. Made a grave strategic mistake. Killed women and children. Injustice never wins, history bears testimony to this …

    Saudi Goverment must take a more stronger stance. It can’t shy away from this humanitarian obligation.

    If it fails, it will make a big mistake. It must speak out and fear no one apart from God (Allah) that they dearly believe in.

  16. As a total outsider who has no stake whatsoever in what occurs in Gaza, I admit I am very disheartened by the Killing Fields on both sides of the border.

    For example, Hamas kills Israelis. Israelis kill Hamas. Palestinians, then, join in support of Hamas to kill more Israelis. Then, Israelis step up the firepower which kills more Palestinians.

    Over and over it goes. Killing upon killing. Death upon death. As a result, everyone is killing everyone. What is the sense? Death to everyone? What does all the killing and death solve?

    Where is the logic?

    Let me put it this way. I kill you. You son kills me. My son kills your son. Your nephew kills my son. My cousin kills your nephew. And on and on the killing goes.

    Pretty soon everyone is dead.

    Is that what everyone wants? For everyone to be dead? Is that what Allah wants, for everyone to be dead?

    It makes no sense. It’s totally illogical and irrational.

    Rather than taking sides in a totally irrational Killing Field in which hundreds or thousands are dying, would it not be better to apply pressure to both sides to seek a solution to the conflict and, thus, end the killing? Every problem has a solution if the parties truly – honestly – are willing to seek a solution.

    I simply do not believe that Allah wants an endless Killing Field over land in his name.

  17. @Valerie

    What if the other side rejects all proposals and insist on exiling “you” out of your home?

    The Arab initiative (which was actually a Saudi) offered Israel a normalization with the 22 Arab countries and establishing diplomatic ties with the state of Israel “if” it was willing to withdraw to the boarders of ’67.

    And honestly, is Israel willing to withdraw to the boarders of ’67? yeah, “when pigs fly”, the Israelis have had refused this offer and said that it was “suicidal” for Israel.

    So, simply, there is no resolution in the horizon, unless a serious peace-seeking Israeli council takes over, and until then, the Palestinians continue their suffer, while the Arabs have already proposed Israel a complete normalization in exchange of accepting the Arab initiative.

    “I simply do not believe that Allah wants an endless Killing Field over land in his name”

    Neither do I. But you need to put the blame on those who justify this by allegedly saying that Joshua had killed +3,000 Palestinians when he conquered Palestine, and if he had done it, why can’t his “grandsons”?


  18. nice post ahmed, i agree with you completely…
    the Saudi regime try to do everything to hide the fact they are civiilized protests occur out there,what they fear most is that if they allow people in Qatif to show their support to their brothers in Gaza this time, they would have to allow others to protest for other demands which the goverment can’t afford to accept whatsoever.

    they arrested many people for nothing and
    there is a doubt they won’t release them as what
    exactly happened many years ago, i can’t get, the saudi goverment propagate their human rights shiny record -which is not true of course-,but they can’t ignore tens of people showing their support for their brothers!

    it’s Muharram but in Qatif i think they try to provoke people by every possible mean for hidden agenda.they surrounds the public gatherings, checkpoints everywhere,,.

    it’s basic human right and some stupid rules won’t stop us.

    on more thing, the comments are off the topic, just focus on the main issue here please.

  19. Protests against Israeli incursion into Gaza and the mass killing of Palestinians have occurred and continue to take place all over the world, including nearly every major city in the U.S. Israel is losing a lot of support among the people of the world.

    But at this point, even if Israel pulled back and stopped shelling Gaza and said it wanted permanent peace talks, would Hamas also stop fighting? I doubt it. There’s too much need for revenge on both sides. So, neither side is willing to put down their arms in order to save lives. That’s why I call that area the “Killing Fields.”

    For years I’ve watched the Palestinians caged into their ghettos and prevented from building normal lives. At the same time, extremists like Hamas have kept up a war that provides a convenient scape goat for the Israelis: Palestinians can’t be trusted; all they want is war. I believe the Israelis are wrong and so is Hamas.

    The Saudi peace plan, as I understand it, is very reasonable and workable. Yet, neither Hamas or Israel has accepted it. And that is just plain crazy! (BTW, I make a clear distinction between Palestinians and Hamas.)

    Regarding the Saudi government not allowing protests such as those occurring elsewhere in the world, I suspect they fear that the protests will get out of hand – the protesters might start speaking out about things in their own country. Plus I suspect the government wants to appear non-partisan as looking partisan might impact international business.

  20. Israel was once a country called Palestine

    And it was run by Jews. There was never a country called Palestine run by Palestinians. If you follow your history you’d know that.

    And considering how backwards and barbaric Saudi Arabia is it is funny to listen to a lecture. In a country in which women have no rights and the morality police run amok. Sheez.

  21. Jack you brought up a very good point…one I was going to bring up as well.

    Actually if we break things down…Jews came first…they did live in an area where Israel is today. All the prophecies of the three monolithic religions foretell of all the Jews being gathered into one place near the end times. What is there to fight about if we already know what is supposed to happen anyway?

    I am very saddened seeing all the injured people especially women and children. Are Hamas people hiding themselves amongst women and children? Why would the leader stay at home with his wives and children when he was advised otherwise? Did he think Israelis would spare him because he was with his family? Why would Hamas launch rockets from shelters?

    I firmly believe Jews will not concede the tiny piece of land they have in the Middle East for any piece of land elsewhere since their origins are there. Also, if I were surrounded by Aliens who had significantly large delicious wafers to ward off their hunger and ensure their survival and they only wanted to take away the little crumbs I had, I would hold on that crumb so as not to starve. It is all about survival as no one wants to be obliterated. If I were Palestinian and I thank God that I am not…I would pack up my bags and move perhaps to Saudi. That is a vast land…and a place so safe you wouldn’t even see one rioter on the street and you would close to the two holiest cities in Islam Mecca and Medina

  22. As much as I was saddened by the fact that we could not have any protests here… I understand why the government put these restrictions. Even though it would be good for saudi arabias image to get at least a foot outside the shell, they can never trust that people will peacefully demonstrate. It’s all about being in control and not wanting to let go of even 1% of the control. The government does not trust the people. Period. Is it for good reason? Depends on the case.. In this case, yes, because if we were given this freedom to protest, we will automatically think that “we have power”, which could lead to problems, caused by the extremist,emotional, unintellectual percentage, which is not small.
    I say, for now, we should just settle for other ways to show we’re with the palestinians, like wearing the koufiyeh, and boycotting products that contribute to israeli economy. Now i honestly have no idea whether boycotting works or not; i mean, even if all Arab and muslim countries boycotted, it wouldnt make a big difference.. BUT at least that 0.00000..wat % my friends and i were contributing will not be part of that sum the israelis get. I researched Jewish websites to make sure it wasn’t propaganda, and I found a website, schmoozenews.com i think, that has an article bout companies supportin israel: starbucks, coca cola, pepsi, marks and spencer, nestlé and others.. Just google “Yubilee awards” and i’m sure you’ll find something worth takin note of. I think if those protesters in other countries do realize that some products should be boycotted, THAT would make a huge difference, and the companies might actually consider freezing that account with israel.

    Its just an idea, and i could be wrong *shrugs* God knows..

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