A group of women and children who are relatives of uncharged prisoners managed to organize a small sit-in in Saudi Arabian city of Buraida, challenging the strict ban on demonstrations in the absolute monarchy. In the past, families of uncharged prisoners managed to organize a 24-hour sit-in, but they had not been able to stay for more than that, until now. Independent human rights sources say that there are over 30,000 arbitrarily imprisoned people, many of whom were arrested in the massive, post-9/11 “war on terrorism”.
This week's sit-in had an unprecedented, explicit demand: the fall of the Interior Minister.
It all started when anonymous activism group @e3teqal, that has been responsible for organizing many small protests and sit-ins during the past two years, announced on Monday, February 25, [ar]:
إعلان اليوم حدث مميز ،، سيكسر حاجز الخوف عند الكثير من الشباب نقول للداخلية ،، أعمالنا سلمية و ستبقى سلمية و نظامية
@e3teqal: Today's announcement will be extraordinary. It will break the walls of fear for many young people, that's what we say to the interior ministry. Our activism has been peaceful and it will remain peaceful and legitimate.
At 4:49 PM local time, a tweet by a detainee's sister, al-Ruzni, followed:
عاجل أعتصام الآن ببريدة أمام الدوار الزراعي..
@jare7h: Breaking news: there is a sit-in in front of Agriculture Roundabout
Protesters held signs demanding the release of their relatives and, in an unprecedented occurrence, the dismissal of the Interior Minster, Mohammad bin Nayef. Others said: “Mohammad bin Nayef is killing our sons in General Investigation prisons,” and “Bin Nayef, the coward, get your hands off women.“
وبعدكل هذا الحشدمن القوات أحببت أن أقول يامحمدبن نايف أعلم أن الأعتقال لن يثنيناعن المطالبة بأسراناالذين سلبت حرياتهم وأرواحهم
@jare7h: With the presence of all these forces, I would like to tell Mohammad bin Nayef that detainment will not stop us from demanding the release of our prisoners whose freedoms and souls you took.
Journalist Iman al-Qahtani was in live contact with the protesters. She tweeted:
إحدى المعتصمات الآن من قلب الحدث: تم اخلاء مركزين تجاريين يحيطان بالمنطقة التي نعتصم فيها كما تم إخلاء الحارات المحيطة بنا #اعتصام_بريدة
@ImaQh: One of the protesters just said: Two nearby shopping centers were evacuated, so were nearby [blocks].
The police asked the protesters to leave, but they refused unless all forces are dismissed. This did not happen and secret policemen with civilian cloths remained around the area. When some protesters tried to leave, they were chased by those policemen so they decided to spend the night where they were. Young men managed to bring blankets and firewood to the protesters. Furthermore, al-Ruzni reported:
حاولنا نذهب لدورة مياه المسجد القريب منا فطاردونا المباحث ..
@jare7h: When we tried to use the toilets of a nearby mosque, secret police forces prohibited us.
The roundabout was open by the next morning and young men managed to bring breakfast and lunch to the protesters. Then tents were brought for the first time in any recent sit-in. Those who provided the protesters with food, blankets and firewood were chased and arrested. According to Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association member, Abdullah al-Saidi:
الموقوفين بشرطة الشمالية ثلاث قضايا .. الأولى احضار بطانيات والثانية جلب فطور وخبز حار والقضية الثالثة توفير حطب للمعتصمات . حقيقة وليس مزاح
@abdulllah1406: The detainees in the northern police [station] have three cases: First, bringing blankets. Secondly, bringing breakfast and hot bread. Third, providing firewood. This is the truth, I am not joking.
Later, a group of bearded men came to ask the women to leave:
عاجل//قدوم رجأل ملتحين رفضوا اﻹفصاح عن الجهة الرسمية التي تتبعهم ويطلبون منا اﻷسماء وخلفهم رجال مباحث
@2Arrashed: Breaking news: Bearded men who refused to disclose their identities asked us for our names. Behind them are secret policemen.
Shortly after that, a protester tweeted:
عاجل/ حضروا قوات الطوارئ
@2Arrashed: Breaking news: Emergency forces arrived.
الرجاء عدم المراسلة عبر الخاص سوف أسجل خروج من تويتر و أحذف الحساب ..وصية أخيرة معنا أطفال ونساء كبيرات بالسن ومرضى..السلام عليكم ورحمة الله
@2Arrashed: Please do not send me any direct messages. I will sign out and delete the account. Last thing: among us are children and elderly and sick women. Salam Alikum.
All women and children were arrested and they remain under detainment.