Financial Times: The doubts of the Sunnis frustrate Saudi Arabiaâ€™s Shiites
The report stated that a Sunni woman visiting the eastern region for the first time was astonished to discover that â€œThe Saudi Shiites speak Arabic, and not Persian. They revere the Holy Quran and not the texts that they receive from Iranâ€.
The number of Shiites in Saudi Arabia is between 1.5 to 2 million out of the 25 million population of the Kingdom. They are mainly found in the eastern region, which is an oil-rich region.
The newspaper states that the discrimination against the Shiites is systematic, since there is not found any Shiite person in the State neither in a leading position, nor in the middle levels of administration.
The report quoted from the Saudi Shiite writer Mohamed Mahfouz as saying: â€œThe State is still dealing with the Shiites as a security issue, and not as citizens that have their own problemsâ€.
In fact, Sheikh Fawzi Al-Seif wonders, â€œNo one can doubt the loyalty of the Arab Catholics to the government because they follow the Pope. Therefore why they doubt oursâ€?
The newspaperâ€™s report states that the Shiite situation had improved significantly in the recent years, since King Abdullah has started, at the time when he was crowned as a prince, the â€œnational dialogueâ€ in 2003. Since then, the Shiite opportunities in education and employment have improved.
The report quoting from the American Human Rights Watch Organization highlighted the discrimination against the Shiites in Saudi Arabia, and the practices of Sunni religious leaders portraying the Shiites as â€œhereticsâ€.
The latest turmoil took place in 1979 in the eastern region, which faced wide acts of violence, when there were demonstrations supporting the Iranian revolution.
Yet, in 1993, most of the Shiite oppositionists returned from abroad after King Fahd promised to ease the political restrictions in return for renouncing the political violence.
In the past year, because of the clashes that took place between the Shiite pilgrims and the religious police, the radical Shiite cleric Nimr Al-Nimr threatened to separate the eastern region from Saudi Arabia, if the violations against the Shiites continued.