JNN 11 Feb 2013 Riyadh : Saudis have staged fresh protests in the eastern city of Qatif, demanding the release of dissident Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr. The protestors chanted slogans in support of the cleric, held in detention since July 2012, as they marched in the streets of the volatile city on Thursday.
Sheikh al-Nimr was shot and arrested by regime forces for criticizing the country’s ruling family.
His family members, after being allowed to visit him in prison, said he has been badly tortured in jail. Nimr’s sister has recently said through her Twitter account that prison authorities are denying her brother medical care.
On Wednesday, two Shia Muslims were sentenced to prison on charges of attending demonstrations in Qatif.
The sentences, which were issued by a court in Eastern Province, were among verdicts in the case of five men accused of holding anti-government protest rallies.
On Saturday, the court began the trials of an unspecified number of Shias on similar charges.
Since February 2011, protesters have held demonstrations on an almost regular basis in the kingdom’s east, mainly in Qatif and Awamiyah, calling for the release of all political prisoners, freedom of expression and assembly, and an end to widespread discrimination.
However, the demonstrations turned into protests against the repressive Al Saud regime, especially since November 2011 when Saudi security forces killed five protesters and injured many others in Eastern Province.
Activists say there are over 30,000 political prisoners in Saudi Arabia.
In October 2012, Amnesty International called on the Saudi authorities to stop using excessive force against pro-democracy protestors.
An analyst says next month the people of Saudi Arabia’s anti-regime movement, led by the eastern provinces, will march on the capital Riyadh.
In the background of this in Saudi Arabia Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr shot and arrested by regime forces last July 2012 for criticizing the ruling family is still a focus of anti-regime protests by the people of the eastern provinces that chant slogans for the release of the cleric who is being denied medical care in prison. Protests that are growing across the country have for some time now demanded the release of all political prisoners held in Saudi jails.
Press has interviewed Ali al-Ahmad, Director of IGA, Washington about this issue. The following is an approximate transcription of the interview.
Q : It’s been said that every uprising need a leader to galvanize around. Is Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr quickly becoming that sort of a leader?
Al-Ahmad: He is definitely becoming a leader without even making himself a leader because he has been the only cleric to stand and speak his mind about the regime.
With the situation here he has inspired thousands of youth both male and female not only in the eastern province, but also across the country and that’s why we are seeing these large protests many months after his arrest.
This protest was done specifically to show that he has the influence and he has the influence not even being there, that’s because he is behind bars, but his influence is increasing, not decreasing. This is just a repeat of what leaders have done in other countries.
Q : In many of these protests these protesters have called for political prisoners to be released, as with Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr who is also detained. Why doesn’t the Saudi royal family just try to calm the situation down and release these people as demanded?
Al-Ahmad: The Saudi royal family is used to absolute power and they are not willing to give an inch to the people. What we are seeing here is that their traditional corrupting has not even succeeded. They are not able so far to give in to the people and to allow the people some breathing space and this is because it is a dying regime, it is becoming more and more rigid and in the end it doesn’t have the flexibility that it used to have before.
So I think right now and this is why the regime is unable to react in the proper manner because it is their final time, their final years of existence.
Q : Am I hearing you essentially saying that the Saudi royals are shooting themselves in the foot and are basically setting themselves up for a full fledged revolution?
Al-Ahmad: Absolutely. I think this has been the story with other governments and leaders who have fallen. And they are just basically following the same route as those leaders like Mubarak and others who refused to give an inch to their people and they usually end of up in the history books…
This year in 2013 with God’s help I think we’ll witness major shifts. Let’s remember next month there is a plan for huge protests in the capital Riyadh and that will surprise everybody I believe.
- Anti Saudi Govt Protest against Repression and Injustice in Mecca and Buraidah (jafrianews.com)
- Drunken Saudi Prince Kills Young Man in Riyadh (jafrianews.com)