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Student sit-in violently dispersed

(ANHRI/IFEX) - Cairo, 11 March 2012 - ANHRI condemns the violence used by the police and personnel of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice to disperse female students of the University of King Khaled in the city of Abha where 53 students were injured following a sit-in.

The students of the University of King Khaled organized a sit-in on 10 March 2012, protesting the mismanagement of the administration board of the University which terminated the cleaners' contract, resulting in an accumulation of waste on the campus. The students called for the resignation of Abdullah al-Rashid, University Director, in an escalation of their demands following the administration's negligence of their initial demands. Some of the personnel of the police and the Committee of the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice intervened to disperse the sit-in with the use of water cannons, injuring 53 students following the storming of the sit-in. One of the students also suffered a miscarriage.

Security forces also detained Mujahid al-Ghanim, a student, because of his support to the protest, as reported by his father on his Twitter account.

In a stern threat, Faisal Bin-Khaled, Emir of Aseer province, told the Saudi News Agency that “the state will not allow a breach of its security under any circumstances or by any means and will handle such cases with intensity and determination. [They] will not pay attention to vandals or to those who take advantage of this sort of situation to lead some youth astray. [They] will handle assemblies, demonstrations, and sit-ins with all possible severity and there will be no leniency at all toward any one who attempts to compromise the security of this country.”

Bin-Khaled ordered an urgent investigation into the circumstances of the sit-in and to consider the demands of the student protesters, without clarifying the nature of these demands although the students had already expressed them in a Facebook page entitled “The sit-in of the students of the University of King Khaled in the first week demanding the resignation of al-Rashif and his clique.”

“It is totally unacceptable that a sit-in of female students expressing their legitimate views is addressed with so much violence and repression. Saudi Arabia has to abandon its excessive intransigence in listening to the voices calling for freedoms within its territory. Demonstrating is a legitimate right for every citizen in his/her country. Rather than responding with acts of humiliation and personal harm, the authorities have to protect citizens in their expression of their opinions,” said ANHRI.

Based on this, ANHRI calls on the Saudi authorities to release all those detained following protests.

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