Saudi Arabia has reportedly dispatched more troops and military equipment to its Eastern Province in a bid to quell anti-government protests.
Activists said on Monday that dozens of military vehicles, including tanks, have left an army base in the center of the country for oil-rich Eastern Province as anti-government protests in the region show no sign of petering out despite a heavy government crackdown.
The move came nearly one week after Riyadh sent over 40 military vehicles to the region to help local police suppress anti-government protesters.
While protests and political gatherings of any kind are prohibited in the absolute monarchy, hundreds of Saudis have staged protest rallies in Qatif and Awamiyah and some other towns in Eastern Province over the past weeks, demanding political reforms, the release of political prisoners, the freedom of expression and respect for human rights.
They have also called for the withdrawal of their country’s troops from neighboring Bahrain, where Saudi-backed Bahraini forces have launched a deadly crackdown on peaceful anti-regime protesters.
Last Monday, Saudi security troops opened fire on hundreds of anti-government protesters in Awamiyah, in Qatif, injuring at least 27 activists, including three women. The Saudi Interior Ministry, however, claims that 14 people were injured in the attack.
A fresh round of protests in Qatif has begun since Saudi security forces arrested two senior citizens, including a 60-year-old man, in a bid to force their sons, both anti-government activists, to surrender themselves to authorities.
Since then, hundreds of Saudis have been gathering outside the police headquarters in Qatif, demanding the immediate release of detainees. Security forces disperse such crowd using force.
Saudi activists say there are more than 30,000 political prisoners, mostly prisoners of conscious, in jails across the Arab kingdom.
According to activists, most of the detained political thinkers are being held by the government without trial or legitimate charges and that they were arrested for merely being suspicious.
Some of the detainees are reported to be held without trial for more than 16 years.
The Saudi government has been frequently criticized by human rights groups. Western governments, however, have remained silent on the human rights violations of the kingdom.