Demonstrations in Saudi Arabia

Al-Jazeera TV Website. Friday, 5 April 2002, 12:11 G.M.T.

Saudi Authorities block pro-Palestinian demonstration in Eastern part of the Country

Saudi Authorities have prevented thousands of demonstrators from reaching the American consulate in the city of Dhahran, in the East of Saudi Arabia, to protest Israeli practices against the Palestinian People. The Saudi Popular Committee in Support of the Palestinian People had called for the action.

A Saudi religious scholar, Shaykh Abd al-Hamid Al Mubarak, said in a telephone interview with al-Jazeera that the security forces closed all the roads leading to the consulate and prevented tens of thousands of citizens from getting there. A number of demonstrators were able to get to the consualte anyway, however. The shaykh said that it is impermissible in Islamic law and not rational to prevent such marches with such huge security forces who repress the people and stop them from expressing their burning feelings which are felt throughout the Islamic world.

Al Mubarak, who took part in the march, emphasized that the police forces arrested many participants. He added, “this is a message we address to the American President Bush and the Arab leaders to stop the aggression against the Palestinian people.” He demanded that diplomatic relations with Israel and America be severed and that oil be used to pressure the United States and the western countries to solve this crisis.

Al Mubarak added, “We want to send a message to the world: if the governments are incapable of sending the message, the peoples are not incapable. I address the rulers. I say to them, ‘fear God! If you do not let the peoples to express their opinion peacefully, then measures might be used that would please neither the people nor the governments. This is a great danger for the Community [the “Ummah”]. Let the people say, ‘No!'”


Al-Quds al-`Arabi. Vol. 13, No. 4007, Friday, 5 April 2002.

Saudis Challenge their government and organize a demonstration in solidarity with the Intifada; A march to be held after Friday congregational prayers in Dhahran.

Jedda – Riyadh – “al-Quds al-`Arabi”

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is seething these days because of the massacres to which the Palestinian people in the occupied territories are being subjected. But the Saudi government imposes a strict ban on any demonstrations of the type that are now sweeping most Arab capitals. The Saudi News Agency yesterday quoted the Saudi Interior Minister, Prince Nayef ibn `Abd al-`Aziz, as saying, “demonstrations are something not permitted. There will be no repeats of them. They do not conform to our social reality, and the historical positions of this country on the struggle of the Palestinian people throughout its long history.”

Prince Nayef was refering to the demonstration that erupted in the city of Sakaka in the al-Jawf Region in the north of the kingdom in which hundreds of young people took part. They raised Palestinian flags and shouted slogans in support of the intifada. Security police broke up the action with force.

Saudis are feeling intense anger because most neighboring Gulf countries have witnessed tumultuous demonstrations in their capitals with virtually no interference by security forces. Their government, on the other hand, is not permitting the same sort of activity.

Yesterday the Popular Committee in Support of Palestine challenged this official ban when it called on Saudi citizens to demonstrate after Friday congregational prayers in Dhahran, in the east of the kingdom. The Committee appealed to citizens to join the demonstration, and the call was carried by Qatar’s al-Jazeera satellite television channel.

Other Saudi cities are expected to witness similar demonstrations after Friday prayers, despite the massive security precautions that the authorities have taken around mosques.

“Al-Quds al-`Arabi” has learned that the Mosque of Lady Fatimah the Radiant in the city of Jedda on Saudi Arabia’s west coast was the scene of a demonstration evening prayers Wednesday. That demonstration was broken up by Saudi security by force. A number of the participants in the action were arrested.

Saudi sources in Jedda said that the call to demonstrate was spread by means of written messages on portable cell phones, particularly among women. The call was answered by more than a thousand men and women who crowded the courtyard of the mosque and the surrounding area. After the end of the evening prayers the women came out carrying Palestinian flags and wearing black and white checkered Palestinian scarves, They chanted slogans in support of the intifada and condemning Arab inaction.

The Saudi security forces, which had been deployed in force around the mosque, charged the marchers. They seized the Palestinian flags that were being carried by the women who were at the front of the marchers. One of the women demonstrators shouted, “OK. You’ve delivered your message! You don’t want people to express their feelings against Israel in solidarity with the heroes of the intifada!”

The officer on duty, whose name was Colonlel M. al-Zahrani, attacked that woman and struck her. He ordered his forces to arrest thirty of the women who were in the front ranks of the march and they were taken to a bus. Most of the women were Saudis, although five were Palestinians.

Marshall Sa`id al-Qahtani, Chief of Police for the Western Province, and his deputy, Salih al-`Ulyan, Chief of Police for the City of Jedda appeared on the scene and were confronted by an elderly man who had been in the demonstration. He told them: “It’ shameful for you to beat a lady and arrest women!” Their only response was to issue orders to release the prisoners immediately. The police force, however, did detain three persons – Sa`id al-Ghamidi, Fayez Saleh Jamal (whose father is a prominent literary figure in Mecca), and Rabi` `Akar, a Palestinian resident in Jedda. After that the demonstration dispersed peacefully.

In another development, the Popular Committee in Support of the Palestinian People in al-Jawf Region announced that it was organizing a number of protest demonstrations in the city of Sakaka after Friday prayers today, as a continuation of the demonstrations that the Committee had led in the same region at the beginning of the week.

Yesterday a tumultuous demonstration erupted in the city of Safwa (the Eastern Region) in support of the Palestinians at exactly four o’clock in the afternoon. The demonstrators chanted anti-Israeli slogans, such as “Death to Israel!”; “Palestine is Arab; Down with Zionism!” and “Death to America!”. Nearly 300 men and women took part in the demonstration and for more than an hour they marched through the major streets of the city. The Police showed up at the scene after the end of the demonstration.

Saudi authorities used three transport planes to send 500 additional security reinforcements belonging to the Anti-Riot Forces to the city of Sakaka, which is near the Saudi-Jordanian border, after the popular demonstrations there.

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