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Class struggle emerges in Saudi Arabia

By       Message Haney Thompson     Permalink
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opednews.com Headlined to H3 2/27/11

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from wsws.org, 25 February 2011

Over 600 construction workers employed by a major company on a project expanding the northern courtyard of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia are on strike.

Their employer, King Abdul Aziz Endowment Project, failed to pay their wages for two months and has not paid overtime. They also called for wage increases and better accommodation.

On Monday, police were used to disperse the strikers protesting close to the site.

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The Saudi construction industry is notoriously low paid and dangerous for the workers, both native born and migrant. Last month, three workers were killed and 11 injured after scaffolding collapsed at a construction site at Princess Noura bint Abdul Rahman women's University, in the capital, Riyadh.

On February 16, hundreds of workers at the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) and extension projects at the King Saud University (KSU), in the capital, stopped work due to non payment of their regular wages and overtime pay.

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A technician from Uttar Pradesh, India, said, "We get our salaries, which is sometimes delayed. However, we don't get payment for overtime services rendered."

The eruption of industrial action in the US-backed absolute monarchy is an expression of deeper social tensions in the country ruled by the House of Saud. The wave of revolution sweeping North Africa and the Middle East is beginning to find reverberations in the one nation in the region that--based on brutal imperialist patronage, ruthless exploitation of millions of migrant laborers and the resources of the largest reserves of oil on the planet--seemed to have suppressed the class struggle for several decades.

Despite the fostered image of stability, tensions have been rising beneath the surface of the oil kingdom. On January 21, an unidentified 65-year-old man died after setting himself on fire in the town of Samtah, Jizan. This was the first known case of self-immolation in the country.

On January 29, hundreds of protesters gathered in the city of Jeddah in a protest against the city's poor infrastructure after deadly floods killed eleven people. Mass messages were sent over smart-phones, calling for popular action in response to the flood.

Police stopped the demonstration about 15 minutes after it started and up to 50 people were arrested.

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On February 5, around 40 women wearing black clothes demonstrated in the capital calling for the release of prisoners held without trial.

On February 10, a Reuters report claimed that 10 human rights activists and lawyers came together to create the Umma Islamic Party, said to be the first political party in Saudi Arabia since the 1990s, to demand the end of absolute monarchy. On February 18, all ten founding members of the party were arrested and ordered to withdraw demands for political reform in exchange for their release.

A "Day of Rage" is planned in the capital for March 11.

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Haney Thompson writes for the International Committee of the Fourth International, an organization dedicated to global socialism.

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Class struggle emerges in Saudi Arabia