Saturday, November 26, 2011

France24: "Unprecedented violence in Saudi Arabia..."

"... Amateur footage shows a tank deliberately trying to hit protesters in the eastern Saudi Arabian city of Qatif on Wednesday. Our Observer told us that this kind of violence is unprecedented in Saudi Arabia. Similar incidents have, however, recently taken place in Bahrain and Egypt.
The demonstrators had gathered in the city centre for the funerals of two people killed during rallies last week. Security forces cracked down on protesters once again; two people were killed and nine injured. In a statement, the Interior Ministry said “these losses took place during an exchange of gunfire with unidentified criminals who infiltrated the population and opened fire from residential areas.” According to the Interior Ministry, two of the injured were policemen.
Since March, residents of Qatif, which is a majority Shiite city, have held frequent anti-government demonstrations. Shiites represent just 10 percent of the total population, and are considered to be heretics by the country’s Sunni leaders. They are marginalised at every level: religious, political and social.
I have been in Qatif since the start of the demonstrations and have taken part in most of them. What I can say is it’s unusual for security forces to use such violence as they did on Wednesday. As people left the cemetery after the two protesters’ funeral, a group of people started shouting anti-government slogans. Very quickly, the police moved in, as you can see in the images. According to my sources, the two people who died were shot at by snipers stationed in the big water tower that can be seen in the background of the video. Then a tank arrived and began to try to mow people down. Most people ran out of the way, but in the last three seconds, you can see the tank hit a man. [Editor’s Note: It is not clear from the video whether the tank actually hit a person or an object].
Authorities said the two people that died on Wednesday were killed in an exchange of fire between criminals, but I don’t believe that. I know people who went to protest – they are young, mostly between 20 and 30 years old. They are unemployed and feel marginalized by the authorities. I tried to find out who the leader of the movement was, but there is none. Since the beginning of the unrest, I haven’t seen any armed protesters...."

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