Inside Saudi Arabia’s Growing Opposition Movement

In Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern province a 3-year uprising has been raging, hidden from the world. With unprecedented access, this report explores the biggest protest movement in Saudi history.

In scenes reminiscent of Libya, Egypt and Bahrain, masked protesters fill the streets, fling rocks and chant “martyrdom is better than oppression” as police bullets fly. In the Shia-dominated Eastern region of Qatif, there has been growing resentment that despite “standing on top of oil fields that feed the world”, local communities suffer poverty, sectarian discrimination and no political freedom. Figureheads of the protests have been added to government wanted lists, been arrested and several have been killed in dubious circumstances. Saudi filmmaker Safa Al Ahmad risks arrest and worse to get inside this troubled region. In secret meetings protesters share their accounts of the growing state violence against them and their families. One leader’s disabled sister tells of how security forces “came while I was sleeping and threatened me with a gun”. The movement insists it is nonetheless growing, but a few incidences of violence by protesters have alienated many locals and given the state justification for their crackdown. After protesters fire on security forces, police funerals are broadcast on public television and the rioters are officially labelled “terrorists”. Both sides are now entrenched. “It is very dangerous for the future. The state just want to show the iron fist. The only reaction is apathy or violence.”

  • Jay Currie

    It’s an interesting and potentially explosive problem as a lot of Saudi oil comes from the region. Usual Shia hate Sunningdale scenario and the Saudis are not shy about disproportionate responses. Which, realistically, are the only responses which seem to work in the Middle East.

    • Justin

      The Saudis are our allies. Say no evil about them!

  • dingo ate my baby

    the yanks will be crapping their pants over this one
    they wont allow a regime change not with saudi arabia being and ally and owning over 80 billion dollars of american property and not to mention the oil
    they will step in i guarantee it

  • Pete_Brewster

    So the Shi’ites want a Shi’ite caliphate so they can live like gypsy kings on Jewish oil instead. No. Drive the blighters off and open up the oil fields to Jewish settlement. All of them.

    Give me a call when their banners read MOHAMMED THE FALSE PROPHET BURNS IN HELL.

  • Linda1000

    There is a lot of poverty amongst the Shia minority (about 13% of population in Saudi) but this is the case in other countries also like southern Iraq and south Lebanon, Syria, Bahrain. Not everyone gets to work for Saudi Aramco. The Sunni Wahhabi and Shia Twelvers divide is really pronounced in Saudi and King Abdullah is caught in the middle trying to appease both sides. So many of the Shia customs or practices are abhorrent to the Wahhabi like the yearly ashura mourning and visiting graves.
    Check out the King’s white boots?? His fashion sense is going downhill.