From: Biniam Haile \(SWE\) (email@example.com)
Date: Sun May 17 2009 - 08:13:40 EDT
Saudi Shias declare independence
Sun, 17 May 2009 11:26:41 GMT
The Shia minority in Saudi Arabia has declared independence from the
Kingdom, creating a country called the "The Republic of Eastern Arabia".
The newly founded nation, which has received little media coverage, is
formed in the eastern areas of Qatif and Al-Hasa, a website close to
leading Shi'a cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Namr reported.
"The decision of the proclamation of the Republic was based on the
demands of the people of the region," the website added, denying any
foreign links for the decision.
Al-Namr, known for his fiery rhetoric, was the source of major turmoil
earlier this year when he gave a provocative Friday sermon, threatened
to break away from monarchy should Saudi authorities refrain from
treating Shias with 'dignity'.
"We will demand our dignity be restored in all permissible ways.... If
it comes down to it ... we will call for seceding from this nation," the
The comments caused the authorities to crack down on the Shia population
residing in the country's Eastern Provinces, arresting more than 35
people in the area.
The Sheikh himself has since remained in hiding.
At the time, many Shia figures in the area rejected the Sheikh's
comments, complaining that he had harmed their cause by giving the
government a reason to suspect their loyalty.
The Shia minority makes up 10 percent of the kingdom's population of
22.6 million and has long complained of discrimination.
They are barred from key positions in the military and government and
are not given an equal share of the country's wealth.
The past few months have proved to be difficult for Saudi officials, as
the global financial meltdown coupled with plunging oil prices and
political turmoil have rocked the nation.
Recently, a group of Saudi activists sent a petition to the Kingdom's
rulers, calling for reforms that would reduce the royal family's grip on
the country's political institutions.
The petition signed by 77 self-described "human rights activists" calls
for a constitutional monarchy "like the UK, Jordan, and Morocco."
The country is also facing a budget deficit of USD 30 billion this year
after oil prices slumped off record peaks last summer.