Saudi Arabia: protests in the center of counter revolution
The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has witnessed important protests in several areas of the countries in the past few weeks. Popular demonstrations and actions, that started a year ago, have nevertheless not be covered importantly by regional and International Medias, while the repression has not been condemned by Western governments.
Thousands of students at an all-female university in Saudi Arabia boycotted classes recently to protest against poor services and demanding reform at the King Khaled University last week. Following the suppression of the demonstration held by the female students at the university, protests have spread to a number of cities in Saudi Arabia. The anger of students spread and “gone beyond the city of Abha to larger parts of the Kingdom, where “several protests took place in the cities of Riyadh, al-Namas, Ar’ar, Qatif, and al-Rabeeah.”
Saudi authorities responded to the protests with violence, killing one female student and injuring 54 others.
In Taibah University in the city of Medina, one student was expelled for publicly criticizing the deteriorating conditions on campus during an open meeting with the director.
In the eastern province of Qatif, one civilian was killed and several injured after security forces clashed with protesters demanding political reform.
The Ministry of Interior released a statement in which it vowed to address “acts of terrorism” and described the protesters as “a deluded minority.”
Protests actually erupted a year ago in Saudi Arabia, in the wind of Arab uprisings.
Protests started with the self-immolation of a man in Samtah, Jizan on 21 January 2011 and protests of a few hundred people in late January in Jeddah, triggered by flooding and several times throughout February and early March in the cities of Qatif, al-Awamiyah, Riyadh, and Hofuf.
On 11 March 2011, several hundred people protested in Qatif, Hofuf and al-AmawiyahIn. In April 2011, several small protests over labor rights took place in front of government ministry buildings in Riyadh,Ta’if and Tabuk. Protests continued in late March and April in Qatif and smaller cities in the Eastern Province such as al-Awamiyah, and Hofuf, which are majority, composed of Saudi shia citizens who are discriminated by the authorities because of their religion. The protestors called for the release of prisoners, for the Peninsula Shield Force to be withdrawn from Bahrain, for equal representation in key offices and for reforms in political positions, as the are discriminated by Saudi Arabia’s regime.
Protests in the Qatif region continued in May and in October protests, police shot live ammunition at protestors. The protestors called for Eastern Province to have its own constitution and legislative assembly, and for their association Society for Development and Change to be legally registered. In late November, few activists and protesters were shot dead by security forces in the Qatif region in successive protests and funerals. The protests continued in December, while hundreds of people protested n Riyadh and Buraidah, calling for the release or trial of prisoners.
The opposition in Saudi Arabia is a cross sectarian one including Sunni and Shia calling for democratic and social reforms.
A Call from Saudi Intellectuals to the Political Leadership made on the February 28, 2011, titled the Declaration of National Reform, expressed their desire for a constitutional monarchy and equal citizenship. They write in their statement that the people’s consent is the basis for the legitimacy of authority, and the only guarantee for unity, stability, and the efficiency of public administration, as well as the protection of the country from foreign intervention.
They also call for the people to be a source of authority, and a full partner in deciding public policies through their elected representatives in the Shura (Consultative) Council, the purpose of the state is to serve society, secure its interests, and improve its standard of living. They insist on the principle of the independence of judicial authority, legislation that forbids discrimination among citizens under any circumstances, the empowering of women to attain their rights to education, owning property, employment, and participation in public affairs without any discrimination and finally they call for more social justice and a just redistribution of the oil revenues among the population.
Once again Al Jazeera, as well as other western medias, are silenced in front the repression of protesters in Saudi Arabia. Programmes critical towards GCC countries are nearly non-existent on Al Jazeera; popular demonstrations in these countries are not given any importance. Al Jazeera doesn’t allow the Saudi opposition on screen, for example.
Saudi Arabia or the center of counter revolution
Saudi Arabia has tried to secure any contagion of protests inside its own borders. The Saudi Kingdom has poured in few weeks in the beginning of the year 2011, 214 billions of dollars, the amount of the Portugal debt, on its own citizens, where 44% of the university graduates are unemployed, and has also created of 60 000 posts in the Ministry of Interior a way to send a direct message to anyone willing to start protests. The country has nevertheless witnessed few popular protests but at a low level, especially in Shia areas, which are discriminated in comparison to other regions.
The Golf Cooperation Council, led by Saudi Arabia, has then assisted military, financially and politically a number of regimes which were witnessing popular protests.
The joint forces of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), led by Saudi Arabia, actually intervened militarily in Bahrain in order to crush the popular movement. The intervention of Saudi forces must be understood as a response to the threat of popular protests inside its own borders.
The GCC led by Saudi Arabia has expressed its solidarity with the Bahraini authorities during the popular protests against the Al Khalifa regime. The GCC decided on March 10 to create a development fund of 20 billion dollars to help Bahrain and Oman, another country beset by protests. Ten billion dollars will be given to each country to upgrade their housing and infrastructure over 10 years.
In Yemen, the GCC led by Saudi Arabia supports a political transition that keeps the structure of the regime as is it, by sacrificing the head of state Ali Saleh who is nevertheless given total impunity as well as his family. The GCC plan transition has been rejected by important sectors of Yemeni society such as independent youth groups, Houtis and Southern Secessionists.
Saudi Arabia, as well as Qatar, has also financially supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Al Nahda in Tunisia during the past few months. Both parties do not challenge the interests of the Western imperialists, Israel and their clients in the region, while they want to limit the political, social and economic consequences of the revolutions. The Tunisia Prime Minister Hamad Jebali actually praised his Saudi hosts in his first’s official visits outside of Tunisia.
The voices of Western governments are once again silenced when it comes to protect its closes allies and its important political and economic interests despite violation of Human rights, repression and total absence of democracy such as with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The US is the first importer of Saudi oil, while the Kingdom is the closest ally of Washington in the region with Israel.
Recently the head of the IMF actually praised recently “the important role” played by Saudi Arabia to stabilize the world economy, while in 2008 Nicolas Sarkozy declared that Saudi Arabia was developing a “civilization policy”. How can the most reactionary regime in the regime in every aspects possible be considered as developing a “civilization policy”?
Arab Revolutions are far from over and will spread to all the countries of the region because they suffer to some extent and different degrees from the same deficiencies: absence of democracy, absence of social justice, and absence of true independence. Saudi Arabia is not an exception to this. People of Saudi Arabia are showing the hypocrisy of the Kingdom which is rhetorically supporting the Syrian Revolution and more trying to hijack it for its own interests and not ones of the Syrians, while repressing its own people and declaring that every kind of protests in the Kingdom is a new form of terrorism.
The revolution must spread to GCC countries and especially Saudi Arabia which are the center of counter revolution in the region. Solidarity is needed with all the uprisings in the region and elsewhere to free the people from dictatorships, neo liberalism and Imperialism.
Viva the permanent revolution