DUBAI – Like their Arab neighbours using the web to rally against their regimes, Saudis seeking political, social and economic reforms have created a group on Facebook that by Tuesday had nearly 2,000 members.
“The people want to reform the regime” group calls for a constitutional monarchy, transparency, legislative elections, an independent and fair judicial system, anti-corruption measures and respect for human and women rights.
Among other demands, the group stands for “the equal distribution of wealth” and “seriously addressing the problem of unemployment” in the oil-rich monarchy.
Social-networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter have played a major role in Arab anti-government movements — sparked by poverty and unemployment — that have grown into major revolts in Tunisia and Egypt.
In Tunisia, what began as a protest against unemployment turned into a nationwide revolt that led to Tunisia’s strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fleeing to Saudi Arabia after 23 years in power.
In Egypt, anti-government protests on Tuesday entered their third week.
The number of Facebook users in the Arab world has risen by 78 percent in 2010, according to a report published by the Emirati Dubai School of Government.
Gulf Cooperation Council states — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates — and Lebanon are among the site’s fastest-growing markets.
Arab users of the social-networking site jumped from nearly 12 million in January last year to around 21 million by the end of 2010, the report said.
Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh warned on Friday that anti-regime uprisings, which he said triggered “bloodshed” and “stealing,” were “chaotic acts” aimed at tearing apart the Islamic world.
And Saudi King Abdullah has expressed his support for embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in a telephone call and slammed those “tampering” with the country’s security and stability.