DUBAI - Arab uprisings that have spread to the conservative Gulf region face a crucial test this week in Saudi Arabia where activists have made unprecedented calls for mass protests against the kingdom's absolute monarchy.
Gulf leaders are struggling to hold back an Internet-era generation of Arabs who appear less inclined to accept arguments appealing to religion and tradition to explain why ordinary citizens should be shut out of decision-making.
Protests are planned in other Gulf countries such as Yemen, Kuwait and Bahrain on Friday, the region's weekend. The time after Friday prayers has proved to be crucial in popular uprisings that have brought down Tunisian and Egyptian rulers who once seemed invulnerable.
Saudi Arabia, the largest country in the Gulf, is home to Islam's holiest sites and a long-time U.S. ally that has ensured oil supplies for the West.
More than 32,000 people have backed a Facebook call to hold two demonstrations in the country, the first of them on Friday.