Alwaght – On Saturday, Saudi security forces in another crime against the country’s Shiite minority killed at least 8 people in Tarot Island in the Shiite-majority Qatif province. The media reports suggested that the regime’s forces entered Sanabis town of Tarot region and killed the 8 people in a shootout after an encirclement of a number of houses.
Saudi Press Agency (SPA), citing a statement released by the kingdom’s security services command, reported that the security authorities have managed to discover in a residential apartment in Sanabis neighborhood what it called a newly-formed “terrorist cells planning attacks on vital facilities” in the Arab monarchy. SPA added that the security forces arrived at the site on 10 am and called for the “suspects” to surrender. They faced resistance, however, thus opened fire, killing them all.
While the initial reports put the number of those killed at 8, the government has yet to give an accurate report on the number of the casualties of the operation that reportedly lasted for 12 hours. Reports suggest that the security forces originally sought to arrest an opposition figure.
According to Al-Ahd channel, the Saudi authorities had transferred to the region bulldozers to demolish the encircled houses. Other reports add that Al-Madhif residential area was targeted by RPG-7 fire of the government forces. The residents were reportedly surprised by the commotion caused by heavy gunfire and movement of armed vehicles across streets of Sanabis.
The people took to the streets after they saw the number of the dead increased. They chanted some slogans in protest, calling for international attention and support to Qatif region’s people.
Heightening crackdown on Shiites
The Saturday attack on the Shiite-inhabited Sanabis under what many believe baseless and never-proven claims of terrorist actions and espionage for foreign governments comes while on April 24, Saudi Arabia mass-executed 37 citizens under the pretext of terrorism.
Since 1933, the year the Al Saud family began its rule over the Arabian Peninsula, the Shiite-dominated regions in the east of the Arab kingdom have been subjected by the central government to crackdown, discrimination, inequity, and crimes due to their religious beliefs. This has been a source of constant objection by the Shiites against their poor political, economic, and social status. They express their opposition to the discriminatory actions of the regime in different ways.
Since 2011, the year the Arab world went into a period of popular uprisings against despotic regimes, the Shiites in Saudi Arabia have been peacefully protesting. In response to the legitimate demands of its citizens for basic rights of citizenship, the Saudi government put up an iron fist policy, jailing, torturing, and executing many of the protestors. The security services in the Shiite regions are in regular operations.
In addition to the ideological nature of the repressions against the Shiite citizens, originating from the historical alliance of Al Saud and Al Sheikh, the Eastern region’s being oil-rich stands as a drive for the government to crack down on the Shiites. Tarot Island resting on the Persian Gulf coasts is only five kilometers away from Qatif. The Topline pipeline that originates from Dhahran province crosses the city to reach Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.
Due to the existence of a ground for discontent, the Saudi officials have been worried about the possible spread of the Arab uprisings to their country ruled by an absolute monarchy. This drives them to deem the Shiites of Qatif a source of serious jeopardy to their rule, hence embarking on continuous clampdown campaign in the region. This serves an aim to transform the region demographically in favor of a Sunni majority.
Western green light for the crackdown
The repressive measures against the Shiite citizens, which have seen a sharp rise under the grip on power of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, have been met with massive condemnation by the international organizations and global public. On March 4, on the sidelines of the UN Human Rights Commission, a meeting was held under the title “Saudi Arabia: Time for Responsibility.” Fionnuala D. Ní Aoláin, the new Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, asserted that Saudi Arabia’s counterterrorism laws were “unacceptably broad and vague.” She continued that they also criminalize those who hold opposition meetings and protests. She added that these laws are directly used to attack and restrict prominent human rights defenders, religious faces, writers, journalists, academics, and human rights activists.
The Amnesty International regularly disparages absence of fair and transparent trials and also torturing of the dissenters in the Arab monarchy’s prisons. Michelle Bachelet, the UN Human Rights Commissioner, is one among many to blast this Saudi policy in dealing with the opposition figures.
But the storms of criticism and condemnation, mainly after the killing of the prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi who was killed in October 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by a hit squad apparently sent by the Saudi crown prince to remove his outspoken critic, do not seem to have left the smallest effect towards change of the Saudi rulers’ behavior in dealing with the opposition. The roots of this behavior remaining unchanged should be sought in a green light given to Riyadh by its Western allies, especially the US and specifically administration of President Donald Trump.
Following the recent mass execution, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a Twitter post said: “After a wink at the dismembering of a journalist, not a whisper from the Trump administration when Saudi Arabia beheads 37 men in one day – even crucifying one two days after Easter”, adding: “Membership of the B team – Bolton, Bin Salman, Bin Zayed & “Bibi” – gives immunity for any crime.”
The Saudi ignorance of the massive international condemnation against its new wave of crackdown on the political, religious, and social activists is, in fact, empowered by an American go-ahead signal.