Saudi Arabia bans protest rallies

Interior ministry vows to use all steps "to prevent attempts to disrupt public order" following recent Shia protests.

    King Abdullah unveiled $37bn in benefits for citizens after returning from abroad last week

    Saudi Arabia has banned all protests and marches following recent anti-government protests in the kingdom’s east, reports say.

    State television on Saturday quoted the interior ministry as saying that security forces would use all measures to prevent any attempt to disrupt public order.

    The ban on public demonstrations comes amid media reports of a huge mobilisation of Saudi troops in Shia-dominated provinces in order to quell any possible uprising.

    According to The Independent, a British newspaper, 10,000 security personnel are being sent to the region by road, clogging highways into Dammam and other cities.

    Shia protests

    A restive Shia population has staged a series of protests in the kingdom’s east in the past weeks. Their grievances range from lack of equal economic and employment opportunities to detentions without trial.

    On Saturday, small protests were held in the cities of Hofuf and Qatif.

    The government of Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy without an elected parliament that usually does not tolerate public dissent, denies any discrimination against the Shia community.

    The authorities, however, are increasingly on edge following the anti-governmnent protests sweeping across the Arab world.

    Last week, King Abdullah returned to Riyadh after a three-month medical absence and unveiled $37bn in benefits for citizens in an apparent bid to insulate the kingdom from protests.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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