The United States has called on Saudi authorities to respect the right to protest following a massive clampdown on anti-government protesters in the ultra-conservative kingdom.
“The United States supports a set of universal rights, including the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression,” AFP quoted State Department spokesman Philip Crowley as saying on Monday.
“Those rights must be respected everywhere, including Saudi Arabia,” he added.
“The Saudi position on protests is actually not new. We have communicated our position to the Saudi government as part of our regular ongoing dialogue and have been for some time.”
The remarks come as protests and any public displays of dissent are forbidden in Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi interior ministry on Saturday announced anti-government protests as “illegal.”
On Sunday, Saudi senior Wahhabi clerics censured opposition demonstrations as “un-Islamic.”
The Council of Senior Scholars in a statement said, “Reform and advice do not take place through demonstrations and methods that fan sedition. The council stresses that demonstrations are prohibited in this country, and that the Islamic way of realizing common interest is by offering advice.”
A group of Saudi youths has posted a message on Facebook, calling for a “Saudi Revolution” on March 20 to demand democratic and political reform in the monarchy.
The Facebook group, which has over 17,000 members, also called for a “Day of Rage” rally on March 11. Tens of thousands of Saudis have already joined the drive.
The government has become increasingly anxious in the wake of a recent tidal wave of anti-government protests that has raced across the Middle East, originating with revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, which have swept longstanding autocratic rulers from power. Agencies