Hundreds of Saudi political opponents, distraught with the recent online publication of pictures of the empty Grand Mosque complex in the holy city of Mecca next to crowded nightclubs in the kingdom, have set fire to photos of the country's leaders, calling for mass anti-regime protests on the Day of Arafah.
The murals of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and his son and the kingdom’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), were targeted ahead of the nationwide demonstrations.
The Day of Arafah, which marks the second day of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, falls on July 19, this year. It is the holiest day in the Islamic calendar, and the day after that is the first day of the major Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha (the Feast of Sacrifice).
The anti-regime activists denounced what they described as the injustice of Saudi authorities, demanded the release of political prisoners, and called for an end to the intimidation and suppression of Saudis.
Among the Saudi opposition parties calling for nationwide protests against the ruling Al Saud regime on the Day of Arafah is a group called the “National Initiative for Change.”
It condemned the secularization of the Saudi Arabian society, and called for an end to “tampering with the religion” as well plans to “destroy the identity” of Saudi nationals under MBS.
Many other users also censured Saudi authorities for disrespecting their religious values, and demanded cessation of persecution and repression of dissidents.
They said pressure must be put on the Saudi regime to improve the livelihoods of ordinary people, abolish government taxes and restore former services to citizens.
Saudi dissidents have called for mass participation in anti-regime protests with various hashtags in Arabic, including “The Overthrow of the Saudi Regime” and “Arafah Day Protest,” on social media platforms.
A social media user even released the video footage of a number of Saudi border guards, whose faces were not shown, burning and trampling on the images of the King Salman and his son.
Another user posted a video showing images of the Saudi crown prince on fire, with the slogan “The people demand the fall of the regime” – a popular chant from the 2011 Arab uprisings – written next to them.
A few days ago, a Saudi social media user juxtaposed a picture of Masjid al-Haram, also known as the Great Mosque of Mecca, during the Hajj season with a picture of what he described as a party.
While the former is almost empty, many people are seen in the second picture despite the coronavirus pandemic.
At the same time, hundreds of Saudi security forces have been deployed on the streets of various cities to block the Arafa Day protests.
According to Saudi social media users, security forces have closed the main roads of cities with armored vehicles and military equipment.
The Saudi crown prince is seen by many Saudi nationals as the orchestrator of a complete social coup.
Saudi nationals say under MBS’s rule, the Al Saud regime has undermined the Arab and Islamic roots of the Saudi nation’s identity under the pretext of combating extremism and diversifying the kingdom’s sources of income.
Observers believe that Mohammed bin Salman is replacing the extremist Wahhabi ideology with another kind of extremism that involves imposing Western culture on a significantly different and deeply religious society.