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The New Arab

Saudi activists call for peaceful protests this Friday demanding reform

The protest calls come amid a crackdown on critics of the country's foreign policy [Twitter]

Date of publication: 12 September, 2017

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Saudi activists have called for peaceful protests in the kingdom later this week to pressure authorities into tackling social issues

Saudi activists have called for peaceful protests in the kingdom later this week to pressure authorities into tackling social issues.

The protests, dubbed the 15 September movement, are set to take place on Friday after people gather in mosques around the country for congregational prayers.

The aim of the protests is to urge authorities to address a range of issues including poverty, youth unemployment, a housing crisis, increasing women's rights and releasing political prisoners, according to a Twitter page set up for the movement.

"The movement represents every citizen who is gravely concerned about his homeland and thinks its sovereignty is under the control of the United Arab Emirates and Egypt and that his dignity has been trampled on by Trump," a statement for the group says.

"It represents everyone worried about the country's resources and thinks they are squandered in the pockets of a small class of people," the statement adds, a likely reference to the Al Saud ruling family.

The movement had received the backing of exiled Saudi dissident Ghanem al-Dosari and anonymous whistleblower Mujtahid, who tweets about the inner secrets of Riyadh's royal court.

Saudis have taken to social media to discuss the calls for public demonstrations with many hailing the move, however, many others have said it will likely have minimal impact on the state of affairs.

Saudi activists have attempted in recent months to organise similar protests, which have failed to gather large crowds, to pressure the government to provide job opportunities for young people.

Demonstrations are banned in the conservative kingdom.

This year, the supreme court upheld the death penalty for 14 Shia men convicted of protest-linked crimes.

The 14 are all linked to protests in Qatif, an eastern province home to most of the Sunni-ruled kingdom's Shia minority, who have long complained of marginalisation.

Saudi authorities, who have regularly cracked down on protests in Qatif, recently seized control of the town of Awamiya after increasingly frequent clashes between residents and police.

The calls for protests come amid an apparent a crackdown on critics of the country's foreign policy.

Muslim cleric Sheikh Salman al-Awdah, 60, was reportedly taken into custody on Saturday, just days after he took to Twitter to welcome reports that Saudi and Qatari royals had made contact after months of their prolonged dispute.

The arrests also come amid widespread speculation that King Salman bin Abdulaziz is preparing to abdicate in favour of his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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