News Release

Democracy and Saudi Arabia


Increased protests are planned for Friday in Saudi Arabia. For a list of online resources that is being updated, see:

Jones is an assistant professor of history at Rutgers University and author of the book Desert Kingdom: How Oil and Water Forged Modern Saudi Arabia. He said today: “The U.S. government is talking about women’s rights and the right of people to protest, but it is entering into a $60 billion arms sale with the Saudi government. …  Saudi Arabia’s citizens want real political reform. The regime does not. With the prospect of bigger protests beginning on Friday, one is gripped by both a sense of anticipation at the possibility of a real democracy movement in Saudi Arabia — and also a fear of the heavy price people will likely have to pay if they take to the streets to demand more political opportunities.” He recently wrote the piece “A Revolution Paused in Bahrain” for MERIP.

Al-Mulla is a writer and poet in Saudi Arabia. He said today: “There are many of the same issues here as in Egypt and Tunisia. About 70 percent of the people are young and frustrated with no rights, no freedoms, no jobs when they graduate. Our women’s rights situation is probably the worst in the world. After seeing others protest, people are becoming more aware, more are connecting online. There have been small protests recently, in various places and there’s the call for big protests on Friday.

“The government is spending money to make people feel better, but it’s not about money. The government tries to divide people, Shia or Sunni, but it’s not about that. It’s about the freedom to speak, it’s about the right to protest, it’s about human rights. Some political prisoners have been freed, but it is not enough. They have to announce a new, real kind of change. The government got the Mufti to issue a fatwa against protests, that it is against Islam — but people will not follow this.”

He added: “I just returned from a demonstration in Qatif — 200 protesters demanding freedom and the release of prisoners held for more than 16 years.”

Chairperson of the municipal council in Qatif, Saudi Arabia, al-Shayeb said today: “There are many demands and many petitions being circulated. Some people are calling for a constitutional monarchy, for fighting corruption, for citizenship equality — there’s no real equality between men and women, religious sects, there are tribal issues. I was elected in the first municipal elections five years ago. Half the council is elected, half appointed by the government. Women couldn’t vote in those elections; people are trying to change that too.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167