Hundreds of Shia Muslims have staged a protest in the oil-rich eastern region of Saudi Arabia for a second straight day, demanding political reforms, religious freedoms, the release of detainees prisoners without trial and an end to the kingdom’s policy of arbitrary arrests.
Demonstators in the city of Qatif and the nearby villages of Awwamiya and Rabeeiya carried placards expressing solidarity with the Shias of neighboring Bahrain.
Nine Shias have been imprisoned since 1996 without trial and hundreds more have been arrested in the past few weeks, amidst increased state crackdown.
Some protesters also called for the withdrawal of Saudi-led troops in Bahrain who were dispatched to quell the Shia uprising in that country.
The protests are in direct violation to the government’s official ban on public demonstrations.
However, there were no clashes reported between protesters and police.
Saudi Arabia is dominated and ruled by Sunni Muslims; Shias form a 10 percent minority, but are clustered in the oil-producing east. Shias have long complained about discrimination and a lack of civil rights (similar to the grievances of their compatriots in Bahrain).
Moreover, according to the ABNA news agency, the Saudi state released 13 Shia activists on Wednesday; however, the demonstrators in Qatif clearly are not appeased.
“They released 13 people. They have been releasing people every week since the protests, [but 12 people are still in jail],” one activist named Almugaiteeb said.
“They might be released next week. The government keeps them to ensure that there will be no more demonstrations.”