Saudi Cleric Salman al-Ouda Tells Riyadh Government To Reform, Or Risk Violence

 @MayaErgas
on March 18 2013 3:54 PM
Saudi Cleric Salman al-Ouda
Salman al-Ouda talking to young YouTube producers in May 2012. Wikimedia Commons/Flickr/Emad Alhusayni

Saudi cleric Salman al-Ouda, a preacher with the Sahwa movement, has decided to take on the government in Riyadh directly. In an open letter posted Saturday on Facebook and Twitter, al-Ouda demanded that the powers that be heed the growing calls for reform coming from across Saudi Arabia or risk “disintegration of the Kingdom.”

The letter, written in English and Arabic, says, “negative feelings have been accumulating for a long time” in Saudi Arabia, and that “we are justified in worrying about what lies beyond. People here are the same as they are everywhere else in the world. They have their ambitions, their demands and their rights. They will not remain silent forever if some or all of these things are constantly denied to them.”

“When revolutions are suppressed, they turn into armed conflicts,” al-Ouda wrote. “If they are ignored, they grow in reach and in breadth. The only solution is to take wise and timely decisions before violence is kindled.”

Al-Ouda specifically condemned the practice of media control and information censorship and called for the release of political prisoners.

Saudi Arabia officially prohibits protests, CNN reported, which means it largely escaped the bulk of the Arab Spring, but that hasn’t stopped small groups of demonstrators from protesting outside of prisons for the release of political prisoners. The Sawha movement has been particularly active in these demonstrations.

Al-Ouda is no stranger to protests himself: He was imprisoned from 1994 to 1999 for anti-government activities.

In May 2012, the Christian Science Monitor named al-Ouda No. 1 on its list of the “10 voices for change in Saudi Arabia.”

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