Confusion reigns over Saudi Arabia protests

10 March 2011

Mixed messages from kingdom make it unclear whether planned protests will proceed

Confusion is rising whether Saudi Arabia’s planned ‘Day of Rage’ which is due to take place on 11 March will go ahead after a week of mixed messages from the kingdom.

Protesters were due to take to the streets to call for voting rights and increased rights for women, as well as the release of political prisoners.

However, the Saudi government has said that any demonstrations of any kind are illegal in the kingdom and promised action against any protesters.

“I’m not sure about if anything will happen,” says Khaled Almaeena, editor-in-chief of the local daily English language newspaper Arab News. “There has been a lot of confusion this week and the government has been carrying out its own email and text message campaign to counter the ones we have witnessed from the protesters.”

Almaeena adds that if any demonstrations do occur then he hopes that the protesters do not damage any public property and that the authorities show restraint.

In central Riyadh, Saudi Arabians that MEED spoke to said that they themselves would not be taking to the streets in protest and that they would be staying away from the city centre on 11 March.

“I am going home straight after prayers,” says one local man who asked not to be named. “It is not in the Saudi nature to protest, so I doubt many people will be [at the demonstrations].”

The Saudi government has taken notice of the unrest with the foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, telling reporters in Jeddah that the government was ready to bring about more reforms aimed at appeasing the concerns of the population.

“The government making these kind of statements means that they are aware of what is going on,” Almaeena says. “I think this is a massive step forward.”

 The protests have been coordinated via social networking sites on the internet such as Facebook and Twitter.

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