Clashes erupted on Monday night as Saudi troops attempted to disperse the demonstrators, who were angry at Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s economic policies that they say have worsened unemployment and poverty across the kingdom.
“The city of Buraidah in the al-Qassim region witnessed demonstrations where hundreds of young people gathered, and (the demonstrations) led to clashes with Saudi security forces,” media personality Hosein Mortada tweeted on Monday night.
Footage of the protests circulated online, showing hundreds of young people voicing their anger over taxes, coronavirus-related quarantines, growing poverty and unemployment in Saudi Arabia.
The protesters chanted slogans denouncing any amount of tax charged during the spread of the coronavirus.
The local police confirmed that a number of protesters were arrested and their cases were handed to the region’s attorney general.
Sources reported that the Qassim Region police and the National Guard were on alert, fearing an escalation of unrest in the area.
Badr Al-Suhaibani, the spokesman of Qassim Region police, said, “A number of citizens were arrested for refraining from responding to security forces while they were performing their duties.”
Street protests are rare in Saudi Arabia, where the conservative regime harshly suppresses any dissent in the kingdom. Public gatherings hardly ever make news in Saudi media and it is almost impossible for journalists to cover them.
Saudi Arabia has seen a rise in poverty and unemployment rate over the past years, despite an ambitious economic plan presented by bin Salman, called the Saudi Vision 2030, which was supposed to diversify the economy.
The kingdom’s economic woes have worsened by the coronavirus pandemic — which has taken a heavy toll on many businesses worldwide — as well as Riyadh’s huge military spending on a deadly war against neighboring Yemen.