Thursday, March 3, 2011

Saudis Own Protests Coming?

Mark March 11 down on your calendars. That's the day that activists on Facebook are calling for Saudi Arabia's own “Day of Rage” public protests. Their demands seem quite reasonable, they include: an elected, representative body in the government, an independent judiciary, a minimum wage of $2,700 (plus increased employment opportunities for young people) and the “abolition of illegal restrictions on women.” It may not sound like a lot, but in many ways Saudi Arabia is still run like a feudal monarchy and their lack of rights for women has long been a sore point with the international community; and despite being awash in oil revenues, average Saudis complain that wages are low and employment opportunities few for people who are not members of the enormous royal family, the House of Saud.

While protests have been sweeping the Arab world, whether they can actually take hold in Saudi Arabia is still an open question. The experts I know on the region seem doubtful, and according to Reuters, while several hundred people have become fans of the Saudi Day of Rage Facebook page, it is impossible to tell whether they are even in Saudi or not. And unlike Gadhafi and Mubarak, King Abdullah is making efforts to get out in front of the discontent brewing in his kingdom by announcing billions of dollars in public sector aid, in an attempt to quell any public displeasure.

Stay tuned for March 11.
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