CDHR’s Commentary: Coinciding with Saudi state’s 82nd National Day, relatives of illegally incarcerated Saudi citizens held two peaceful demonstrations; one in the desert outside of the Tarfiya Prison in Qassim Province (Central region) and the other in the capital Riyadh, outside of the Saudi government’s Human Rights Commission. The orderly and peaceful protestors which consisted of wives, children, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters of the prisoners, were not chanting down with Saudi oligarchs or burning the Saudi flag; they were simply trying to find out as to why their relatives have been in Saudi dungeons without specific charges or opportunities to defend themselves in a court of law for years. One anguished, but determined protestor summed up the Saudi government’s arbitrary arrests and treatment of its prisoners in a blunt manner, "There are some prisoners who have been tortured, some who have completed their sentences, others who have not been charged and even some who have been found innocent but are still imprisoned." "We will stay here until we are heard."
Instead of listening to the grievances of the aggrieved protestors, the Saudi state’s security forces did what they are trained and instructed to do. They corralled and kept the protestors in the sizzling desert heat for one day without access to food or water as described by one protestor; "We are hungry and thirsty and looking for shade under vehicles." After the protestors’ entrapment for one day, they were told that they have been heard, their demands will be looked into and it was time for them to disperse. After they left the desert prison, the protestors were chased by the riot police who separated men from women and children, loaded dozens of men in government’s vehicles and took them to unknown locations.
From these events and deadlier confrontations between authorities and peaceful justice and freedom seeking protestors in other parts of the country, it is obvious that the Saudi autocratic regime is still living in a political coma. The Saudi regime continues to depend on brute force, bribery, arbitrary detentions and state manufactured and controlled religious courts to justify its policies of exclusions, discrimination, intimidation and prohibition of basic citizens’ rights to express themselves peacefully.
In the pretext of national security and “War on Terrorism”, any individual or group of people who call for democratic reforms, women’s rights, religious freedom, an end to discrimination based on gender, race and religious orientation or constitutional monarchy can be imprisoned without charges or trials for years. The Saudi regime’s continual failures to understand that a new generation of men and women are aspiring to a brighter, better and promising future. They no longer care about mosques and religious police. Like their counterparts in the Arab World and the rest of the world, they want freedom, emancipation from fear and a role in determining the future of their important country.