… So malls in Saudi certainly seem the “place to be” these days, especially given the hot summer temperatures and the recent easing of restrictions of who may enter and when. They also may become the venue of choice for public demonstrations against the authorities, as exemplified by a recent protest at the Sahara Mall in Riyadh, which was documented on YouTube, Twitter, and blog posts (as I reblogged above). This follows on the heels of the protests earlier in the spring by university students as well as other isolated incidents. Who knows … will this turn out to be an especially long, hot summer for the Saudi authorities?
Relatives of political detainees held a small protest in Riyadh Wednesday night, photos and videos posted to social media sites showed. The protest took place inside Sahara Mall in the northern part of the Saudi capital. The videos below show men marching inside the mall as they chant a hadeeth by the Prophet that says “release the distressed.”
The account @e3teqal on Twitter, which identifies itself as a coordinator for the activities of illegal detention victims in Saudi Arabia, posted a number of photos purporting to show the protest:
UPDATE 6/7/2012 1:10: Mohammad al-Abdulaziz said on Twitter that his brother and his family (wife and three children) have been arrested. It is said that more people have been arrested.
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Saturday saw more protests at King Khalid University in Abha, this time the male students coming out in support of the females, who demonstrated last Wednesday. This short video shows the students marching onto campus and calling for the resignation of the university president.
Some more images of the protests at KKU were emailed to me, but unfortunately, I don’t know the original source of them. This one shows the authorities’ response to the male students’ protest earlier this week. Note the machine gun truck in the photo on the top right and the tank-like vehicle in the middle. Yikes! (The caption on this photo collage says “King Khalid Military University”.)
I also got more images from the women’s protest. Here’s one showing just a sea of black from the number of women gathered during the demonstration.
The signs being held up by these 3 women say “The People want to bring down the regime of King Khalid University” – a phrase borrowed from the Arab Spring protests.
There’s also several videos on Youtube that were posted about a month ago showing examples of what the students were demonstrating about. I grabbed a couple of screen shots from one of them. The state of the facilities is pretty shocking, even more so considering that the university is relatively new (established 1999) and that the country has forecast a $3.2 billion budget surplus and has budgeted more than $100 billion for education spending for 2012. And the focus on education already goes back several years – for example, in 2008, the budget for education was $28 billion.
Where is the all that money allocated towards education going? These students deserve much more from their university and the learning environment the government purports to provide!
Yesterday, there were news reports here of several female university students injured following a protest at King Khalid University in the city of Abha, located in western Saudi Arabia. There were apparently around a 1000 students who gathered to protest against corruption and deplorable learning conditions at the university, including garbage allowed to accumulate around the cafeteria and insufficient seating in lecture halls despite repeated complaints from students. At least 50 students were injured and several had to be sent to hospital. Some reports stated that a student died following an epileptic seizure and another suffered a miscarriage, but not all the coverage reported the death, so that fact is uncertain.
This university protest is just the latest among a few that have occurred over the last year – all but one, to my knowledge , by female university students. I should also point out that any sort of public demonstrations are banned in Saudi Arabia, making these university protestors even that much braver. Last year, there were protests by female students at Princess Nora University when apparently 70% of the class failed the English exam. You can be pretty sure that when a majority of the students fail an exam, there’s something wrong with the exam … and the instructor! And also last year, female university students at Umm Al Qura University in Mecca stormed the university’s administration building protesting the institution’s admissions policy that unfairly considered family and personal connections (“wasta”) over actual merit and academic grades.
Change and revolution is often seeded by the youth, as seen by so many examples throughout history. For Saudi Arabia, will it be the women who will lead the charge?