[Rebelling against injustice is basic to people in every society, and it often takes the form–or begins with the form–of protest, of an appeal to authority. There is an assumption which drives all protests: the authority will listen, be responsive, has a certain trust with the people to solve problems that are brought to attention by protests. But when the protest reveals the unresponsiveness and illegitimacy of those in power, different forms of rebellion inevitably take shape, and people no longer line up at the King’s “suggestion box.” But, it often takes time for rebels to gather the understanding and forces to challenge illegitimate authority in revolutionary ways. — Frontlines ed.]
November 29th, 2012
By Justin Dorman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – On Tuesday about fifteen men, twenty-two women, and eight children were detained for participating in a protest just outside the Human Rights Commission in Saudi Arabia’s capital of Riyadh. The women and children were let go that day, however, the men are still being held by the Saudi Arabian security forces.
The participants of the peaceful protest claimed that its purpose was to criticize the states improper treatment of their detained relatives. They congregated outside of the Human Rights Commission hoping to be heard by the body because no other Saudi Arabian authority would previously listen to their complaints or attempt to resolve the dispute.
The protestors’ complaints centered around two main issues concerning their detained relatives. Some cited inadequate medical care for detainees was a source of frustration. One woman claimed that her husband had been urinating blood for six months without ever receiving medical assistance.
Many others were protesting the complete lack of basis under which their relatives were being detained. Mohammed Al-Qahtani, a human rights activist and board member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, described the protests as demonstrations by family members for prisoners who have been, “languishing in jail cells without due process” for years.
One woman said that her husband has been held against his will for twelve years despite being found innocent at trial. Others claimed that their relatives were being held captive despite never being charged or put on trial.
As a result of protesting the treatment of the detainees, the demonstrators became detainees themselves. Only after the women and children signed a document stating that they would not protest again otherwise they would face punishments if they did, were they eventually released.
The grand mufti, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh, has condemned the use of protests claiming that they are used by, “enemies to spread chaos.” He also states that to protest is inherently anti-Islamic. The grand mufti purports that Islam promotes dialogue, while protests promote nothing more than danger.
As an Islamic religious leader, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh is adamantly against the Arab Spring uprisings which have taken place across the Middle East for the past couple of years. He sees protests and demonstrations as a chief reason that four Islamic autocratic regimes were ousted from their positions of power. As a result, it is illegal to partake in a protest or demonstration in Saudi Arabia.