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memri
April 3, 2012 No.
819

First Signs of Protest by Sunnis in Saudi Arabia

By: Y. Admon*

Introduction

Recently, the Saudi government press, as well as Arab media and social networks, reported on student demonstrations in several Saudi universities in protest of poor learning conditions. Initially, the Saudi press reported on a demonstration held by female students at King Khalid University in Abha (a city in 'Asir province).[1] Later, the Saudi press, as well as social networks and anti-Saudi sources (such as Iranian and Syrian websites), reported that the student demonstrations had spread to other Saudi cities.[2]

The Egyptian daily Al-Dustour published an article titled "For the First Time in the History of the Kingdom, a Revolution... Calling for Nonviolent Sit-Down Strikes at Saudi Universities and Schools." The article stated that the media blackout on the protests would not hide the reality – namely that Saudi Arabia is witnessing a large-scale popular move that accompanies the Arab Spring. It said that this move began with the Shi'ite protests in Al-Qatif in February of this year, and even prior to that, with the women's struggle for the right to drive, and is now manifest in demonstrations by students. The report stated further that several Saudi activists have decided to stage a two-day hunger strike in solidarity with their incarcerated friend, Muhammad Al-Bajadi, who has been on a hunger strike for three weeks in protest of the conditions of his detention in a Riyadh prison. Al-Bajadi was arrested for participating in a sit-down strike demanding to release political prisoners.[3]

In response to the protests, Saudi officials accused "external elements" of attempting to undermine Saudi Arabia's security and stability. These comments, coupled with the fact that the students' demands were swiftly met, indicate that the Saudi regime understands the explosive and dangerous potential of student demonstrations, and fears the rise of a large-scale protest movement in the country, similar to those of the Arab Spring. The government press featured articles slamming Iranian and Muslim Brotherhood attempts to interfere with internal Saudi affairs, and some websites likewise accused Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood of trying to spark popular protests in the kingdom.

It should be mentioned that, approximately one year ago, an attempt was made to spark a public protest movement in the country via an online campaign calling for a day of rage on March 11, 2011.[4] During this period and even prior to that, repeated Shi'ite protests took place in eastern Saudi Arabia, in solidarity with the Shi'ite protestors in Bahrain and also in demand to free political prisoners and enact reforms in Saudi Arabia. (The most recent of these demonstrations took place on February 2, 2012 in Al-Qatif province). Over time, the demonstrations spread to other sectors in Saudi society, chiefly students, and also women, who constitute one of the most oppressed sectors in the country.

Increased Criticism of the Regime

In the past year, against the backdrop of the Arab Spring uprisings, there has been increasing criticism in Saudi Arabia of regime policy, corruption in state institutions, high poverty and unemployment rates, lack of free speech and government transparency, and the oppression of the Saudi woman, among other issues. Among the critics were senior administration officials and even princes in the royal family. However, they combined their censure with praise for reforms that have been enacted by King 'Abdallah, which may indicate that they were merely paying lip service in order to create an impression of solidarity with the Arab Spring.

One prince who definitely does not hide his intense criticism of the regime is Talal bin 'Abd Al-'Aziz, who frequently expresses his opinions in the U.S. media and on his Twitter page. In November 2011, shortly after the appointment of Prince Naif bin 'Abd Al-'Aziz as the Saudi crown prince, Talal resigned from Hayat Al-Baya (a committee of princes in charge of selecting the crown prince and king), apparently in protest of Naif's appointment. Recently, he said that the "hand of justice" should reach all the corrupt in Saudi Arabia, and called on the National Anti-Corruption Authority (NACA) to reach everyone, regardless of status.[5]

In an interview with the BBC last February, Prince Talal said: "Unless problems facing Saudi Arabia are solved, what has happened and is still happening in some Arab countries, including Bahrain, could spread to Saudi Arabia, or even worse." He enumerated the reforms he believes must be enacted – "developing the People's Council, holding elections and implementing women's rights and human rights" – and added that the Saudi king "is the only member of the royal family who [also] believes in these reforms and can carry them out." He called to turn Saudi Arabia into a constitutional monarchy – "not the Western kind [of constitutional monarchy], but rather the kind that exists in countries like Kuwait, Bahrain and Jordan."[6] Recently, Prince Talal also spoke against princes who own vast amounts of land and real estate, when many other Saudi citizens own no property at all. [7]

Prince Talal's son, businessman Walid bin Talal, also speaks against the regime, and, like his father, often chooses to express himself on the American media. In an article in the Wall Street Journal, he wrote that the winds of change blowing in the Middle East would eventually reach all the Arab countries, and that these countries, especially the monarchies, should take the opportunity to increase the people's involvement in political life.[8] Alluding at a Harvard conference to the protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria (but not Bahrain, which he ignored), Prince Walid said that social change and economic reform in his country were not enough, and that the people must be heard and be involved in decision-making processes. These statements were quoted in the government daily Al-Jazirah.[9]

Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, governor of the Mecca province, said that government officials are involved in cases of state land being appropriated, and promised to prosecute the offenders. In a March 26, 2012 conference on land takeovers, attended by senior administration officials, he said that the phenomenon undermines the kingdom's development plans, such as housing and public facilities projects.[10]


Cartoon in Saudi government daily: Saudi official hunts down little bugs and collects them in his "fight against corruption" pail, ignoring the great demon of "corruption" that stands grinning behind him.[11]

Other senior officials likewise addressed the need for reforms, and expressed support for those already enacted by the king. Speaking at the "Gulf and World" conference in December 2011, Prince Turki Al-Faisal said that, in addition to dealing with issues of Gulf security, the GCC countries must address their internal affairs, consider their future, and enact necessary reforms, in order to grow stronger on the domestic front.[12] On other occasions he praised king 'Abdallah's reforms.[13]

Saudi Princess Basma bint Sa'ud bin 'Abd Al-'Aziz, the daughter of the late King Sa'ud (ruled 1953-1964), who lives in London and is active in several social institutions and human rights organizations, also voices her opinion on Saudi affairs. In recent years, she has frequently appeared on Arab and foreign media and has written many articles criticizing the difficulties faced by Saudi citizens, and especially women, due to the excessive interference of the religious police in everyday life in the country. It should be mentioned that Basma's criticism is aimed mainly at the government, not at the royal family: she claims that the country's problems lie in a corrupt government that does not implement or enforce laws. Following the Arab Spring revolutions, Basma claimed that Saudi Arabia should conform to the changes in the Arab World, and enact serious internal reforms. In an article published on her blog on August 18, 2011, she wrote: "We must change, open our eyes to what is happening around us, and reform our home from within, in all areas. Our country does not have a single mechanism that is run properly and efficiently... We have traveled light years backwards instead of hastening to conduct radical change that would stave off [the wave of] regional change.[14]

Many Saudi columnists, and not just liberal ones, began writing more and more articles criticizing the regime: Saudi columnist Daoud Al-Shiryan wrote several articles slamming the Saudi government's mismanagement of income, as well as the lack of employment opportunities for Saudi citizens due to the government's preference of foreign labor.[15] Saudi columnist Dr. Khalid Al-Dakhil wrote on his Twitter page that the phenomenon of mass protests is knocking on Saudi Arabia's doors, and that this is a social change that requires change in the country.[16] Columnist Sattam 'Abd Al-'Aziz Al-Muqrin complained that government and censorship apparatuses are too opaque and conduct their affairs in secret – a policy which causes the public to doubt their credibility and question their commitment to reform and to the fight against institutional corruption.[17] Several other Saudi columnists wrote articles criticizing the rising poverty in the country.[18]


According to a Saudi internet forum, these documents reveal that some 60 million riyals were stolen from a higher education fund at King Khalid University[19]


Saudi cartoon on bribery[20]

Female Students Protest at Saudi Universities

On March 8, 2012, the Saudi daily Al-Watan reported that 53 female students from the School of Education and Literature at King Khalid University in the city of Abha were injured during a demonstration protesting poor sanitation at the school, improper treatment by faculty, and a disregard of the students' problems. According to reports, some 8,000 female students attended the demonstration. The students said that their learning environment had been poor for a long time: shortage of chairs, overcrowded classrooms, filth, restricted internet service, and harsh treatment by professors, even after complaining to school management. One student said that her and her friends had been walking on "piles of garbage" for several days. Several parents of students at the school reported that most bathroom stalls were out of service, that the cafeteria was closed for an entire day, and that several students had been beaten (the parents did not say by whom). It was further reported that ambulances arrived at the scene of the demonstration and evacuated the injured to the hospital, and that 50 employees of the Saudi religious police helped contact the protestors' families and disperse the demonstration.[21] The website for the Iranian TV channel Al-'Alam even reported that a protester had been killed, and that this had forced local media in Saudi Arabia to report on the demonstration.[22]


Female students protest in Abha[23]


Trash piles at the university[24]

Following these events, the governor of 'Asir, Prince Faisal bin Khalid bin 'Abd Al-'Aziz, ordered to establish an inquiry board to investigate the reasons behind the demonstration. According to two announcements issued by the university 12 hours after the demonstration, the students began shouting and attacking university faculty and security personnel because their demands of the management had not been met. One statement said: "The doors are open for complaints and suggestions by male and female students... Anarchy does not serve the educational process."[25]

Female students reported that men suddenly entered the campus and dispersed the demonstration with water hoses. One student said that her friend, who was three months pregnant, miscarried after being attacked by the religious police. The religious police spokesman in 'Asir province, Sheikh 'Aidh Al-Asmari, denied that his men had attacked the protestors and said that they had entered the university premises only after the students were evacuated.[26] On March 9, 2012, students at King Khalid University announced their intention to go on strike on March 10 in protest of the injuring of fellow students during the March 7 demonstration, and of the university's decision to cease sanitation services. Users on Facebook and Twitter likewise condemned the violence against the students, and demanded to prosecute the director and the dean of the school.[27]

On March 14, 2012, the Saudi e-daily Sabq reported on a female student demonstration at the King Khalid University School of Education in the Sabt Al-Awliyya district, which erupted in protest of learning conditions and in demand to oust a university official.[28] The Saudi daily Al-Watan reported that six female students and one professor were injured during a demonstration at the Balqarn School in Abha. The school's PR director said that the students did not express their demands or explain why they were protesting, but that, according to their parents, they have been suffering from rising food prices, poor sanitation, poor condition of the campus buildings, and arrogant treatment by faculty members.[29]


Female students protesting at the Balqarn campus[30]

Online Calls for Protests

A call was made on several websites and social networks to protest in all Saudi universities and schools on March 17, 2012.[31] And indeed, several protests were held on this day in Saudi universities: The Saudi daily Sabq reported that 50 female students protested at the Qassim University in Buraidah and that the university director, Dr. Khalid bin 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Hamoudi, requested to meet with them and hear their requests.[32] One of their demands was to replace the traditional garb with trousers.[33] Protests were also renewed in Abha and Balqarn: Female students demanded an improvement in learning conditions, and according to reports on several websites, Saudi security forces used electric batons to disperse the demonstrations.[34] Anti-Saudi websites reported on Shi'ite demonstrations in the eastern part of the country, protesting Saudi security forces beating female demonstrators in Abha and Balqarn and demanding to prosecute "the murderers," chiefly the Saudi crown prince and the interior minister, Prince Naif bin 'Abd Al-'Aziz.[35] It should be mentioned that, at a Shi'ite protest in November 2011, there were calls of "death to the Al-Sa'ud clan" (i.e., the royal family).[36]

Protest Spreads to Riyadh

The Saudi daily Al-Watan reported that on March 17, demonstrations were also renewed at King Khalid University, this time at the School of Literature and Science in the Muhail district in Riyadh, in demand to improve the learning environment at the university.[37] A video posted on YouTube also shows students demonstrating at the School of Technology in Riyadh.[38] The Syrian news site Mobile News reported that the "Saudi Spring" had reached Riyadh. According to the report, hundreds of students from the School of Technology demonstrated in protest of the policies of the school administration and of the Saudi regime. The Syrian daily Al-Thawra also reported on a student demonstration at the King Sa'ud University in Riyadh, during which security forces stormed the university. The daily also reported that female students protested outside the Ministry of Education.[39]

The Shi'ite Iranian website Abna even reported that King 'Abdallah ordered to establish "a team to deal with the crisis" that would keep tabs on the demonstrations. According to the report, the king met with several ministers and demanded that they act immediately to end the protest at all costs and to meet students' demands. Furthermore, the king held the minister of education responsible for the protest at the universities, and demanded that security apparatuses prevent the protest from spreading to the Saudi street. The website also reported that the director of King 'Abd Al-'Aziz University, the largest university in the country, decided to subsidize student meals at the school. In addition, he established monitoring committees to monitor the level of services and learning conditions at the university. According to the website, these steps were motivated by the regime's fear that the protest would reach that school as well.[40]


Students protesting at King Khalid University[41]

Saudi Youths Protest Hegemony of Regime and Religious Establishment, Call for Freedoms and Civil State

On March 2012, a Saudi website posted a petition, signed by some 2,500 youths (mostly students), voicing opposition to the throttlehold of the regime and the religious establishment over Saudi society. The petition said: "We, a group of young activists, are working to achieve the goals of the shari'a, which we are proud to be associated with. We are aware of our rights and duties, and oppose anyone judging [the quality of] our Islamic [piety] or national [loyalty]. We also oppose having any stream speak in our name and claim a monopoly over [the right] to educate, guide, advise or sponsor us under the pretext of protecting us from ideas that conflict with its ideology. We are [also] against [any stream] waging its private struggles against its rivals [over our backs], under the pretext of protecting us." The petition demanded to stop the struggles between the various factions in the country, struggles "that do not [promote] pluralism, elections, civil society and a united homeland that includes everyone." They demanded to condemn the exclusion of the other, promote values of dialogue, allow freedom of opinion and establish civil society institutions.[42]

Saudi Government Press Supports the Student Demonstrations

During the demonstrations and after them, the Saudi government press ran numerous articles in support of the students and their demands. Most of the columnists focused on the protests by the female students, which had touched off the university protests, stressing that the Saudi woman today was more aware of her rights and bolder in demanding them and in voicing her opinion in general.

Liberal Saudi columnist Halima Muzaffar wrote in Al-Watan that the female students' demonstrations indicated a serious administrative problem in the universities. She said that this problem must be addressed with transparency, considering that the students were the next generation and would contribute to the country's culture and future. Muzaffar called to establish an investigative committee outside the university and 'Asir province, and said that, if administrative negligence is discovered, those responsible should be dismissed, regardless of their status.[43]

In an article in the Saudi daily Al-Sharq, columnist 'Abd Al-'Aziz Al-Dakhil wrote: "The male and female students who assembled to voice their demands aloud did so after things reached an impossible point... and the door had been shut in their faces... The government must hear their demands and recognize the citizen's right to raise his demands if he does not find an answer to his grievances."[44]

An article in the Saudi daily Al-Iqtisadiyya, by columnist Salman Al-Dosari, harshly criticized the King Khalid University's administration for allowing the situation there to deteriorate to such an extent that demonstrations erupted. He also criticized the kingdom's education minister for not arriving on the scene of the protests himself, but sending his deputy in his stead. Al-Dosari added that the students had proven they did not need any outside prompting in order to express their demands.[45]

Saudi Officials: External Elements Are Trying to Destabilize the Kingdom

On March 9, two days after the first student demonstration in King Khalid University in Abha, 'Asir Governor Prince Faisal bin Khalid bin 'Abd Al'-Aziz visited the campus and met with the university authorities. Following his tour, he said that the students' demands merited consideration, and that he would work with the university authorities to meet them. However, he implied that the students had been incited by "saboteurs" wishing to harm the kingdom, saying: "[Saudi Arabia] will never agree to anything that harms its security, and will respond to [any such attempt] firmly and severely. We will never heed saboteurs and [people] who exploit various issues to mislead young men and women and invade their space. We will not be lenient with those who make light of state security, because security is the responsibility of the state, and without it, all is lost. This is evident from what is happening in some of the countries around us. When security fails, the state fails." The Prince added that gatherings and demonstrations in Saudi Arabia were illegitimate.[46]

At a March 11, 2012 meeting with over 500 students from King Khalid University, the Prince said: "I hope that the events we have witnessed in the past days will not recur, because there are some who are trying to exploit your agitation and bursts [of emotion] to destabilize the [country's] security. [But] the security of the homeland will not be destabilized under any circumstances, for you yourselves are [also] responsible for [the state's] security, even if you are attending school... We must all understand that protecting this country's security is a basic necessity...

"I am meeting with you today in order to hear your requests and complaints. Before you begin, I ask of you to protect this country's security, because its enemies outside the kingdom have already exploited what has been published in some of the media for other purposes... What you are demanding is your legitimate rights, namely to improve and develop the level of academic studies. This is a legitimate request that proves that you are aspiring to be useful [citizens of] this proud homeland." The prince also promised to relay their requests to King 'Abdallah.[47]

The Middle East Online website reported that the King Khalid University authorities were swift to meet the students' demands, and that all students who had been arrested in the protests were released out of fear that the protests might escalate. The office of the 'Asir province governor even decided, for the first time, to add ten female students to the Regional Youth Council.[48]

King 'Abdallah's son, Prince Mut'ab, a member of the Saudi government and commander of the Saudi National Guard, also cautioned that external elements were aspiring to harm the kingdom's security and stability, whose defense, he said, was the responsibility of all. Regarding the university demonstrations, Mut'ab said that solving problems and meeting demands did not have to come at the expense of security and stability. He added that the situation in most of the Arab countries "obligates us to be cautious, to protect the security of our country, and to fight inflammatory calls aimed at destabilizing [the kingdom]."[49]

Allegations that Muslim Brotherhood, Iran Are behind the Events

Some articles in the Saudi government accused Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood of trying to instigate popular protests in the kingdom. Saudi columnist Bina Al-Malahim alleged on the daily Al-Riyadh that the Muslim Brotherhood movement was trying to instigate riots in the Gulf states, but that its efforts would be in vain: "A few days ago, we heard statements by one of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. He spoke about one of the Gulf states, interfering in its affairs[50]... His tone implied... that he wished the Gulf states to suffer the same fate as other tense [countries in the region]... The groups of political Islam are urging their supporters to mobilize the public, and advising them to exploit every political mistake [made by the regimes] for purposes of political incitement. Many of there movement's supporters have [indeed] tried to incite the public in the Gulf against the governments by exploiting mistakes that occur in every country... in order to instigate the anarchy they hope for. They see the social networks as the best [platform] for expressing the political ambitions they harbor in their hearts... This has exposed their political plan, [which they present] in an Islamic guise in order to rally the public to their cause and convince it [to support] what they are doing.

"However, what they are doing is clearly a mistake, and the great efforts they have invested will not [help them] realize any political plan in the Gulf... No movement will ever succeed in undermining the unity of the Gulf, even if some of their leaders occasionally attack one of the Gulf states, or if [Muslim] Brotherhood activists [try to] harm Saudi Arabia or some other country [in the region]. They will not succeed in undermining the people's unity, as has been proven beyond any doubt by the [recent] events..."[51]

Al-Riyadh columnist Tareq Al-Nasser wrote that the Shi'ite protests in eastern Saudi Arabia, which were renewed following the student demonstrations, had been instigated by Iran, which was inciting the Shi'ite minority in the kingdom: "Those who doubt that there is a connection between Iran and the armed [protests] taking place in the eastern region of our country are [promoting] a very strange opinion. We need only take a brief glance at Iranian foreign policy in the region in order to be convinced, beyond any doubt, that this policy is based specifically on a conspiracy to achieve [Iran's] goals... I called on those who doubt [this] to look at [what has happened] in our region in the past three years:

"In Kuwait, a cell belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard [Corps, IRGC] was officially exposed, and Kuwaiti military personnel, Kuwaiti citizens and foreign nationals were arrested and put on trial. In Bahrain, [too], official [sources] accused the Iranian government of organizational, media, and operational interference in the sad events that took place in Bahrain over recent months, which almost led the country to anarchy and civil war. This affair likewise [ended with] Iranian agents on trial. In Yemen, elements in the Iranian regime were officially accused of establishing, supporting, training, and funding the Houthi movement, in order to take over northern Yemen and try to attack the south of the [Saudi] kingdom.

"In the [Saudi] kingdom, Iran was officially accused of inciting and supporting [extremist] groups to attack security personnel and civilians with Molotov cocktails and firearms in [the Shi'ite eastern Saudi town of] Al-'Awamiyya. In the UAE, Iran maintains its occupation of the three islands [Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Moussa], and there have been increasing rumors of Iranian cells waiting for the [right] moment to take action there. In Iraq, respectable [figures] have complained that the IRGC kills anyone who [dares to] mention the Iranian influence on the diplomatic process in [the country]. Thousands of honorable Iraqis, especially university professors and senior clerics, have fallen victim to the systematic cleansing Iraq has carried out in order to clear the ground for [the Iranian] agents. In the U.S., IRGC operatives were officially accused of involvement in planning to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington and bomb the Saudi embassy in Argentina.

"In addition to all this, Iran still harbors Al-Qaeda operatives, and uses them and others as claws with which to threaten anyone who hinders its plan. It uses them to spark conflicts in neighboring countries, in preparation for taking them over and subjecting them to Iranian influence. Is it not strange that some have yet to realize that Iranian foreign policy is formulated not by the Iranian Foreign Ministry but by the IRGC? Iran does not tire of preparing escapades to harm our countries. Does this fact need further proof?"[52]

*Y. Admon is a research fellow at MEMRI.


Endnotes:

[1] The Saudi daily Al-Jazirah reported that the student protests in Abha ended after a week, as soon as the governor of 'Asir province met with the student representatives. Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), March 13, 2012.

[2] See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5PkaDANwbY&feature=related; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsyIzt4ak7E&feature=related.

It should be mentioned that the student demonstrations in Saudi Arabia sparked similar protests in other sectors: Several employees of Saudi airlines called for a 48-hour strike in several airports on March 25-26, in demand to improve their working conditions and to deal with institutional corruption. Al-Yawm (Saudi Arabia), March 14, 2012. As of this publication, the Saudi media has not reported on such a strike taking place.

[3] Al-Dustour (Egypt), March 15, 2012.

[4] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No. 674, "In Anticipation of the Saudi Day of Rage on Friday March 11, 2011", March 12, 2011, In Anticipation of the Saudi Day of Rage on Friday March 11, 2011

[5] Rasid.com, March 13, 2012. The National Anti-Corruption Authority (NACA) was established by King 'Abdallah on March 18, 2011 as part of limited reforms he sought to enact following popular criticism of institutional corruption in the country. NACA recently announced a large-scale campaign to promote social awareness of all forms of corruption.

[6] Bbc.co.uk, February 17, 2012.

[7] Rasid.com, January 19, 2012.

[8] Wall Street Journal (U.S.), February 6, 2012.

[9] Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), February 19, 2012. It should be mentioned that Prince Walid's statements are rarely quoted in the Saudi government press.

[10] Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), February 19, 2012.

[11] Al-Yawm, (Saudi Arabia), March 27, 2012

[12] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), December 6, 2011.

[13] See Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), November 7, 2011. For some additional remarks Al-Faisal made in praise of the king's social and political reforms, see portal.mofa.gov.sa, December 22, 2011.

[15] Al-Hayat (London), December 25, 2011; January 10, 2012.

[17] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), March 1, 2012.

[18] See, for example, an article by liberal Saudi columnist Halima Muzaffar, Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), October 26, 2011.

[19] Alsaha.com, March 13, 2012.

[20] Alsaha.com, March 13, 2012.

[21]Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), March 8, 2012. For footage of the protest, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AA6rSf4XyfQ.

[22] Alalam.ir, March 18, 2012.

[23] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), March 7, 2012.

[24] Sabq (Saudi Arabia), March 7, 2012.

[25] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), March 8, 2012.

[26] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), March 8, 2012.

[27] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), March 9, 2012.

[28] Sabq (Saudi Arabia), March 14, 2012.

[29] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), March 15, 2012.

[32] Sabq (Saudi Arabia), March 17, 2012.

[33] Middle-east-online.com, March 12, 2012.

[34] Al-Waqi' (Saudi Arabia), March 17, 2012.

[35] Nobles-news.com, March 17, 2012; Abna.ir, March 18, 2012; Alkawthartv.com, March 17, 2012; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pc2qqCtGMjI.

[36] See MEMRI-TV Clip No. 3210, "Protestors in Qatif, Saudi Arabia, Chant 'Death to the Al-Saud Clan' in Mass Demonstration Following the Recent Shooting of Two Local Shiites by Police," November 23, 2012, http://www.memri.org/legacy/clip/3210.

[37] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), March 18, 2012.

[39] Al-Thawra (Syria), March 18, 2012.

[40] Abna.ir, March 18, 2012.

[41] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), March 18, 2012.

[42] Youthpetition.wordpress.com, March 30, 2012.

[43] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), March 12, 2012.

[44] Al-Sharq (Saudi Arabia), March 19, 2012.

[45] Al-Iqtisadiyya (Saudi Arabia), March 17, 2012.

[46] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), March 10, 2012.

[47] Al-Iqtisadiyya (Saudi Arabia), March 12, 2012.

[48] Middle-east-online.com, March 20, 2012.

[49] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), March 14, 2012.

[50] This refers to recent statements by Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi, who attacked the UAE for dispersing an unlicensed demonstration by Syrian nationals against the Al-Assad regime.

[51] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), March 18, 2012. Dubai Police Chief Dahi Khalfan likewise wrote on his Twitter page that outside elements, specifically the Muslim Brotherhood, were behind the Abha protests: "The [Muslim] Brotherhood in the kingdom has begun to instigate riots. They use thuggery to spark conflicts, and use Khomeini-style tactics to take advantage of the university students." He added that the Muslim Brotherhood members were "soldiers" secretly working to implement Washington's "plan of anarchy," and that any protest in Saudi Arabia would please them. Middle-east-online.com, March 12, 2012.

[52] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), March 15, 2012. Saudi researcher Madawi Al-Rashid, known for her criticism of the Saudi regime, said in an interview with the Iranian channel Al-'Alam TV that the student demonstrations in Abha were the result of the authorities' disregard of the students' demands, and that they were of great significance, considering that they broke out a day before International Women's Day. She said that the protest was the beginning wider demonstrations that would likely spread to additional cities throughout the kingdom, now that the barrier of fear among the people had been broken. Al-Rashid blamed the government, which she said was busy with problems within the leadership, for the general decline in the situation of the people, and cautioned against further deterioration. Alalam.ir, March 10, 2012.