People in the Qatif region of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province have taken to the streets to express anger at the execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.
The rally was held on Saturday with protesters marching from Nimr’s hometown of al-Awamiya to Qatif, chanting, “Down with the Al Saud.”
The regime in Riyadh on Saturday announced the execution of Sheikh Nimr and 46 others in defiance of international calls for the release of the prominent Shia cleric and other jailed political activists in the kingdom.
Meanwhile, mourning ceremonies are being held across Qatif amid media reports that said the region’s residents have called for taking up arms against the Saudi regime in the form of popular resistance.
Saudi security forces are said to have been evacuated from their stations in the region.
The development comes as Lebanon’s Al Ahd news website said hundreds of anti-riot personnel carriers set off for Qatif on Saturday to quell potential protests on the part of its Shia population against the execution.
Security forces have also been alerted in other Shia-populated cities across Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia’s execution of the top Shia cleric has drawn angry reactions from Muslim bodies worldwide.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari said the execution of Sheikh Nimr “who had no means other than speech to pursue his political and religious objectives only shows the depth of imprudence and irresponsibility.”
Lebanon’s resistance movement Hezbollah also condemned the killing as an “assassination,” describing Sheikh Nimr as a spiritual scholar who always sought dialogue and resisted injustice.
A critic of the Riyadh regime, Sheikh Nimr was shot by Saudi police and arrested in Qatif in 2012. He was charged with instigating unrest and undermining the kingdom’s security, making anti-government speeches and defending political prisoners. He had rejected all the charges as baseless.