Saudi Arabia warned potential protesters on Saturday that a ban on marches would
be enforced, signaling that small protests by the Shi’ite minority in the
oil-producing east would no longer be tolerated.
regulations totally ban all sorts of demonstrations, marches, sit-ins,” the
Interior Ministry said in a statement – adding that security forces would stop
all attempts to disrupt public order.
The ministry said demonstrations
violated Islamic law and the kingdom’s traditions, according to a statement
carried by state news agency SPA.
Inspired by protests in other Arab
countries, there have been Shi’ite marches in the past few days in the east –
and unconfirmed activist reports of a small protest at a mosque in the Saudi
capital Riyadh on Friday.
The US ally has not faced protests on the scale
that hit Egypt and Tunisia, but more than 17,000 people have backed a call on
Facebook to hold two demonstrations this month – the first one on
A loose alliance of liberals, moderate Islamists and Shi’ites
have petitioned King Abdullah to allow elections in the kingdom – which has no
elected parliament – although even activists say they don’t know how many of the
almost 19 million Saudis back them.
For about two weeks, Saudi Shi’ites
have staged small protests in the kingdom’s east,which holds much of the oil wealth of the world’s top crude exporter – and
borders Bahrain, scene of protests by majority Shi’ites against their Sunni
Saudi Shi’ites often struggle to get senior government jobs and
other benefits like regular citizens.
The government of Saudi Arabia, an
absolute monarchy that usually does not tolerate public dissent, denies
Across the border in Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh reiterated
that he would remain in power until his term ends in 2013 – rejecting an
opposition plan for him to step aside this year.
“The peaceful and smooth
transition of power is not carried out through chaos but through the will of the
people expressed through elections,” an official source at the presidential
office said in a statement.
The opposition on Friday said Saleh was
sticking to an earlier plan to step down in 2013, but agreed to a proposal by
religious leaders to revamp elections, parliament and the judicial
Saleh, an ally of the United States in its battle against an al-
Qaida wing based in his country, has struggled to cement a truce with Shi’ite
rebels in the north, and quell a budding secessionist rebellion in the
Protesters are frustrated with widespread corruption and soaring
unemployment in a country where 40 percent of its 23 million people live on $2 a
day, or less – and a third face chronic hunger.
Minister for Youth and Sports Hashid Abdullah al-Ahmar resigned from the ruling
party on Saturday in protest at the use of violence against anti-government
demonstrations, a source close to him told Reuters. His resignation comes a day
after an influential ally of the president, Ali Ahmad al-Omrani, a tribal sheikh
from the southern al-Baida province, resigned.
Earlier on Saturday,
witnesses told Reuters that three protesters were wounded on Friday evening when
Yemeni security forces fired into the air and used tear gas to disperse
demonstrators at a sit-in in the southern port city of Aden.
were dispersed after they gathered at a square in the city’s Sheikh Othman
district following Friday prayers, the witnesses said.
Possibly more than
100,000 protested on Friday in one of the largest demonstrations in Sanaa yet –
and similar numbers rallied in Taiz, south of the capital, a Reuters reporter
said. More than 20,000 protesters marched in Aden, and tens of thousands marched
in Ibb, south of Sanaa.
In neighboring Oman, meanwhile, Sultan Qaboos bin
Said replaced two key ministers on Saturday, in response to protests across the
Persian Gulf nation calling for political reforms and jobs.
bin Muhammad al-Naamani was appointed minister of the palace office, which
controls the country’s security; and Khalid bin Hilal al-Busaidy becomes the new
minister of the diwan of the royal court, Oman’s state news agency said, citing
About 200 protesters gathered in the capital Muscat on
Saturday at the headquarters of the Shura Council (a quasi-parliamentary
advisory body) for a seventh consecutive day – while around 150 government
supporters waved Omani flags from their cars.
Sultan Qaboos, who
exercises absolute power in a country where political parties are banned,
reshuffled his cabinet last week in response to the protests.
police and pro-government activists foiled a sixth attempt by opposition
protesters to march in the capital Algiers, AFP reported.
A faction of
the National Coordination for Change and Democracy had called Saturday’s protest
in three parts of the city for 11 a.m. – in defiance of an official ban on
demonstrating in Algiers.
But several dozen demonstrators found
themselves quickly surrounded by police.
photos of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika chanted “Bouteflika Is Not Mubarak” as
they chased and roughed up the anti-government protesters.
foiled protest was the sixth attempt since January 22.
A day earlier in
Jordan, hundreds marched through the capital demanding democratic reforms and an
end to corruption within the Hashemite kingdom.
The mainly Islamist crowd
– joined by liberal and leftist activists – marched after Friday prayers to a
square in the center of Amman, shouting, “We want to reform the regime!” and “We
want to fight the thieves who have robbed the country!” Jordanians have staged a
number of anti-government protests in recent weeks, but the demonstrations have
been smaller than in other Arab countries.
The opposition demands focus
on free elections under a more representative electoral law that would form a
government elected by a parliamentary majority – and not one appointed by the
king, as at present.
“We want a truly representative parliament – not one
that is the outcome of vote-rigging,” Jamil Abu Baker, a leading member of the
Islamic Action Front, the political arm of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood, told the
Islamist organizers said protesters also staged several small
marches across Jordan from the northern city of Irbid, to the southern town of
Scattered sit-ins by disgruntled workers over pay and conditions
have also been mounting in cities around Jordan in recent weeks in protest at
erosion at rising poverty.
Jordan’s King Abdullah’s has responded to
anti-government protests by sacking an unpopular prime minister last month and
replacing him with a former intelligence general, a step seen as dealing a blow
to Islamist and liberal hopes for reforms.