The Qatif conflict is a modern phase of sectarian tensions and violence in Eastern Arabia between Arab Shia Muslims and Arab Sunni majority, which has ruled Saudi Arabia since early 20th century. The conflict encompasses civil unrest which has been sporadically happened since the 1979 uprising, pro-democracy and pro-human rights protests and occasional armed incidents, which increased in 2017 as part of the 2017–20 Qatif unrest.
|Part of the Iran–Saudi Arabia proxy conflict|
Map of Saudi Arabia, with Eastern Province (including Qatif region) highlighted.
|Commanders and leaders|
Since Al-Hasa and Qatif were conquered and annexed into the Emirate of Riyadh in 1913 by Ibn Saud, Shiites in the region had experienced state of oppression. Unlike most of Saudi Arabia, Qatif has a Shiite majority, and the region is also being of key importance to the Saudi government due to its closeness to the bulk of Saudi oil reserves as well as the main Saudi refinery and export terminal of Ras Tanura, which is situated close to Qatif.
The 1979 Qatif Uprising was a period of unprecedented civil unrest that occurred in Qatif and Al-Hasa, Saudi Arabia, in late November 1979. The unrest resulted in 20-24 people killed in what was described as a sectarian outburst of violence between the Shi'a minority and Sunni majority in Saudi Arabia and the beginning of the modern phase of the Qatif conflict.
After the 1979 uprising, the Saudi authorities have engaged in systematic persecution of Shi'a activists in Qatif, with an estimated 182-219 killed by 1983 (including the 1979 events).
Arab Spring protests 2011–12Edit
The protests in Saudi Arabia were part of the Arab Spring that started with the 2011 Tunisian revolution. Protests started with a self-immolation in Samtah and Jeddah street protests in late January 2011. Protests against anti-Shia discrimination followed in February and early March in Qatif, Hofuf, al-Awamiyah, and Riyadh. A Facebook organiser of a planned 11 March "Day of Rage", Faisal Ahmed Abdul-Ahad, was allegedly killed by Saudi security forces on 2 March, with several hundred people protesting in Qatif, Hofuf and al-Amawiyah on the day itself. Khaled al-Johani demonstrated alone in Riyadh, was interviewed by BBC Arabic Television, was detained in ʽUlaysha Prison, and became known online as "the only brave man in Saudi Arabia". Many protests over human rights took place in April 2011 in front of government ministry buildings in Riyadh, Ta'if and Tabuk and in January 2012 in Riyadh. In 2011, Nimr al-Nimr encouraged his supporters in nonviolent resistance.
Execution controversy of Nimr al-NimrEdit
On 15 October 2014, al-Nimr was sentenced to death by the Specialized Criminal Court for "seeking 'foreign meddling' in [Saudi Arabia], 'disobeying' its rulers and taking up arms against the security forces". Said Boumedouha of Amnesty International stated that the death sentence was "part of a campaign by the authorities in Saudi Arabia to crush all dissent, including those defending the rights of the Kingdom's Shi'a Muslim community."
The head of Iran's armed forces warned Saudi Arabia that it would "pay dearly" if it carried out the execution.
In March 2015 the Saudi Arabian appellate court upheld the death sentence against al-Nimr.
On 25 October 2015, the Supreme Religious Court of Saudi Arabia rejected al-Nimr's appeal against his death sentence. During an interview for Reuters, al-Nimr's brother claimed that the decision was a result of a hearing which occurred without the presence or notification of al-Nimr's lawyers and family. This being said, he still remained hopeful that King Salman would grant a pardon. However, on January 2, 2016, al-Nimr was executed.
The 2017–20 Qatif unrest occurred in the Qatif region (within Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia) between the Saudi government and the Shia militants until it died down in 2020. It began in May 2017 after an incident on 12 May when a child and a Pakistani young man were shot and killed. In the same month, Saudi authorities erected siege barricades in Awamiyah and attempted to bulldoze the al-Musawara residential area. The conflict became an armed conflict, with about 12–25 people killed in shelling and sniper fire during May and the following few months.
On 11 May 2019, 8 militants were killed in a firefight with Saudi security forces in the Sanabis neighborhood of Qatif.
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