For the first time in decades, the Eastern Saudi Arabian volatile situation has reached the vital oil sector. A pipeline between Awamiya and Safwa has been reportedly targeted, and is under fire; the Saudi government sources were quick to claim that the fire is not an explosion and is one kilometer away from the pipeline. Our correspondent in Qatif confirmed that the area under fire is indeed where major pipelines are located; tomorrow is the anniversary of Fatima Zahraa’s death, the prophet Mohamad’s only daughter. It is an important and symbolic date for Saudi Shiites, and might constitute a suitable timing for such an escalation against the Saudi government’s ongoing repression in the region.
Our correspondent in the area has said “I know the region where the photo was taken, it is between Safwa and Awamiya where major pipelines towards Ras Tanura are located”. He said that “this is a message to the U.S. administration to convince Saudi Arabia’s government to engage in serious reform”. He continued that “there is another oil field on Awamiya’s borders, and a second one on the edge of Safwa … these are skirmishes to get American attention”. (Saudi Arabia’s revolt rarely gets media attention, especially that the U.S. is a major ally of the royal family)
The Arab Digest correspondent also said that “the region where the Awamiya oil field is located is called alrams, it is an agricultural land. Senior Saudi royal family members stole acres of this land, especially the late crown prince Sultan Ben Abdul Aziz. After steeling the land, and following local anger, he offered to sell it to them again for a high price. People still remember this incident very will. Recently, the government has made plans to destroy the natural landscape of this region, but the locals are protesting against this”. The Saudi government has been trying through resettlement plans to change the demographics of the Eastern region, where Shiites remain a majority.
While the Saudi Government usually points a finger at Iran whenever a protest occurs in Qatif, Eastern Saudi activists rightly note that their cause and movement dates back decades before Iran’s Islamic revolution (1979).
Awamiya’s pipelines lead to Ras Tanura, the world’s largest petroleum port, also located in Eastern Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority, mostly residing in the oil rich east, has been protesting for years against State-sponsored discrimination and deprivation of local resources. They are treated as second class citizens, denied public sector jobs, and vital development for their oil rich areas. Saudi Arabia’s powerful Wahhabi religious establishment considers Shiites heretics, and constantly incites against them. Among their demands, is a ban on media and mosque discrimination, as Shiites are regularly mocked and called heretics/infidels on TV channels.