Large Protests in Saudi Arabia after Activists Killed
At least three activists were killed in the Eastern Saudi governorate of Qatif on September 26, sparking large protests over the weekend among the majority Shi’a population there. The unrest came on the heels of separate protests and dozens of arrests around Riyadh in an unusually volatile week for Saudi Arabia. Government sources said the violence in al-Awamiya, a town 10 minutes north of the city of Qatif, started [Ar.] when “gunmen” opened fire against security forces who were trying to arrest a man in connection with previous Qatif protests. Security forces “responded as necessary,” killing the activist Abdel-Karim Hassan al-Labad and an unnamed man who was with him. A 16-year-old boy, Hasan Zahiri, died four days later from wounds sustained in the firefight. Activists disputed the government’s account of the events in al-Awamiya, insisting that al-Labad and the others were unarmed.
News reports [Ar.] and videos posted to Youtube indicate that thousands of protesters rallied in al-Awamiya and Qatif on Sunday, calling for justice and “death to the House of Saud.” Qatif has been the site of several large protests over the last year as the Saudi government moved aggressively to clamp down on dissent in the East.
In southern Saudi Arabia, a human rights activist launched a hunger strike to protest being held without charges for more than two weeks. The man, Eisa al-Marzouq al-Nakhifi, “had campaigned on behalf of villagers evacuated from their homes near the border during a brief conflict between Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s Al Houthi rebels in late 2009,” many of whom have not been allowed to return.