Rare Shi'ite protests break out in eastern Saudi Arabia

February 25, 2009 17:29

Members of Saudi Arabia's Shi'ite minority have held protests that included anti-government slogans rarely heard in public, escalating tensions with authorities sparked by a dispute at a cemetery in Islam's second holiest city. The worst bout of confrontations in years between Shi'ites and authorities in the overwhelmingly Sunni country began with an argument Friday night in the vicinity of al-Baqee Cemetery in Medina. A group of Shi'ite pilgrims visiting the cemetery complained that officers from the religious police were filming women among the group. A Saudi official blamed the Shi'ite pilgrims for the trouble, accusing them of performing religious rituals offensive to other worshippers and authorities at the cemetery. On Tuesday, the dispute erupted into two protests involving several hundred people in an eastern town, and Shi'ite leaders differed over whether demonstrations and shouting slogans would resolve the issue better than quiet dialogue with the government.

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