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Saudi fishermen in Qatif go on strike in rare display of dissent

The file photo shows a fisherman in Saudi Arabia's Qatif region.

Fishermen in Saudi Arabia's Shia-populated Qatif region have organized a strike against new surcharges, including taxes and additional fees, imposed on them by the kingdom in Riyadh.

The fisherman in the eastern region called on fellow workers to "defend their livelihoods" against an increase in loading charges and other business costs.

Viral images showed Qatif’s fishermen gathering in the market and demanding an end to the price hikes.

The key demands they put forward included calling on the Saudi kingdom to drop the additional fees, which force them to increase the price of sales to their customers.

Reacting to the development, political activist Khalid Aljabri said in a tweet that, “In a rare display of public defiance, Saudi fishermen from #Qatif go on strike against new government surcharges and rising business costs. This is worth tracking as security authorities under MBS have shown little tolerance for peaceful civil dissent.”

Qatif, which has been the site of repeated anti-Riyadh demonstrations in recent years, has been grossly underfunded and neglected by the Saudi authorities.

Saudi Arabia has stepped up politically-motivated arrests, prosecution, and conviction of peaceful dissident writers and human rights campaigners, in particular in the Eastern Province.

The province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the region.

The protests have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown, with regime forces increasing security measures across the province.

Ever since Mohammed bin Salman became Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and de facto leader in 2017, the kingdom has arrested dozens of activists, bloggers, intellectuals, and others perceived as political opponents, showing almost zero tolerance for dissent even in the face of international condemnations of the crackdown.

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