Toby Matthiesen writes: As the British prime minister, David Cameron, visited Riyadh in mid-January, wooing Saudi business and strengthening bilateral relations, a young Shia man in the eastern province was shot dead.
Following the kingdom’s huge arms deal with the United States, Cameron apparently wanted to persuade the Saudis to buy Typhoon Eurofighters. His visit was a slap in the face for protesters, who are demanding human rights and more of a say in their country’s affairs.
In the week beginning 16 January thousands of people – activists say tens of thousands – took to the streets of Awwamiya in the eastern province to commemorate the death of Issam Muhammad Abu Abdallah, aged 22. He had been shot by Saudi security forces on the night of 12 January.
According to the interior ministry, the security forces were defending themselves after a police car had been attacked. Activists and local Shia news websites acknowledge that the police were attacked, but argue that the police used force indiscriminately. Issam’s funeral turned into a large rally at which emotions ran high and anti-government slogans were chanted.
These events are just the latest episodes in one of the Middle East’s most under-reported conflicts.