Saudi Arabian citizens feel oppressed

Incendiary bombs flew and machine guns were fired: at least 14 people died in clashes between the Saudi police and members of the Shiite minority in the east of the oil kingdom. The unrest on Monday evening in the village of Al-Awamia in al-Qatif province was the result of earlier protests in which the Saudi Shiites showed solidarity with their oppressed fellow believers in neighboring Bahrain. Do the Shiites in the world's most important oil-producing country now dare an uprising, does the uprising also begin in the arch-conservative kingdom?

It's not that far yet. On the contrary: Saudi Arabia is the standard bearer of the Arab counter-revolution. King Abdullah tries to stifle the social and political discontent of his citizens with gifts of money in the form of education and housing programs; At the same time, in his extremely conservative society, he is taking cautious reform steps such as the introduction of limited women's suffrage. Outwardly, Abdullah is more robust in the revolt: Saudi soldiers helped the neighboring royal family in Bahrain to suppress the Shiite unrest there. And the fled Tunisian dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali lives in exile in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, undisturbed by prosecution.

The clashes in the Shiite province of al-Qatif are a sign that Saudi Arabia could soon get more restless. The shootings were triggered by a series of arrests: The AFP news agency reported, citing a Shiite activist, that the police had been looking for participants in the protests against the crackdown on the Bahraini uprising. Family members of wanted Saudis were taken into custody, virtually as hostages. This triggered a dispute in which, according to the authorities, the officers were shot with machine guns: Nine of the dead are said to be police officers.

The suppression of the Shiite uprising in Bahrain, supported by the royal family, aroused the indignation of the notoriously restless Shiites of Saudi Arabia. It is all the more conspicuous that Riyadh blamed the clashes on its neighbor Iran and thus raised it to an international level. "A foreign country is trying to undermine our national security by causing unrest in al-Qatif," said the Interior Ministry. One will react with the "iron fist". What is meant by the foreign country, as everyone in the region understands, is the Islamic Republic. Iran is linked to the supremacy of the Shiites and the Saudis in long animosity. For those who did not want to understand, a columnist wrote: "It shows that Iran's assertions that they want peace in the Gulf are dishonest. The Gulf states themselves have never created problems in Iran, while Tehran is constantly trying to close the region destabilize."

Added to this is the historical enmity between Persians and Arabs

As a Sunni country, Saudi Arabia has a Shiite minority. The Shiites make up ten percent of the population and live mainly in the east. They feel socially disadvantaged in a country whose king rules on the basis of a strict form of Sunni Islam. The coalition of the royal house of the al-Saud and the Wahabi clergy carries the state; Shiites are heretics to Wahabi people.

Since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the proximity to the Shi'a supremacy Iran has given the Shiites in Saudi Arabia a boost. That brings her into conflict with her king. Riyadh has always seen the Shiites as the fifth column of the Iranian revolution that wanted to spread across the Arabian Peninsula. In addition to the inner-Islamic conflict, there is the historical enmity between Arabs and Persians. Bahrain also fits into this pattern: 75 percent of the inhabitants of the island kingdom on the Persian Gulf are Shiites. But the power is held by the Sunnis and their royal family, the al-Khalifa. The uprising in Bahrain was primarily a Shiite revolt for more social justice. The Khalifas knocked them down with the help of troops from the GCC Gulf Cooperation Council. And that is dominated by the Saudis. Bahrain also claims that the uprising was instigated by the Iranians. There is no evidence.

There is no doubt that Tehran is influencing the Shiites in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. This happens primarily through the Shiite networks and the clergy: Individual Persian grand Ayatollahs are also popular in the Arab world. Where this is not the case, Tehran can influence things with the help of the clergy in Iraq or Lebanon: Iraqis or Lebanese are often more popular with Arab Shiites than the reigning Iranian grand Ayatollahs.

Iran wants to become a hegemonic power in the Persian Gulf, it is arming itself. Since Iraq has not posed a significant military threat to its neighbors, Saudi Arabia has remained the supreme power on the Arabian Peninsula. The up-and-coming Islamic Republic is competing with the Saudis. They have a lot of money, but not a good army. Therefore, the Saudi threat of the "iron fist" seems hollow. But the Americans are still firmly on the side of the Saudis for the time being.