Armored anti-riot vehicles cluster outside the police station in Awwamiya in Saudi Arabia’s oil- producing eastern region, where unrest is turning violent.
“We have enough police force to deal with any criminal or prohibited situation,” says Brigadier-General Yousef al-Qahtani as he drives through the town. In nearby al-Qatif, graffiti scrawled on a cemetery wall criticizes the Al Saud family, founders of the kingdom eight decades ago, and calls for the removal of their fellow Sunni Muslim monarchs in Bahrain. Black Shiite flags adorn religious centers in the back-alleys.
Clashes between police and armed Shiite protesters in the two towns have intensified since October, when 11 police were injured in an attack. Since then, seven Shiites have been killed by security forces, according to figures provided by Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights First Society.