Hundreds back Facebook call for Saudi revolution

A Facebook page calling for revolution in Saudi Arabia has received the backing of hundreds of users demanding an elected ruler, greater freedom for women and the release of political prisoners.

News agency Reuters reports that more than 460 people had signed up by Wednesday morning for the page urging a "revolution of yearning" in the kingdom on 11th March, though it's not clear how many of them came from within Saudi Arabia itself.

The call follows the success of uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, both of which have been attributed in part to the role of the Internet, with social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter being used to coordinate dissent.

Protests are continuing in other Arab states in the region, including Yemen and Bahrain. Opposition forces also look close to toppling the 40-year dictatorship of Libya's Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi.

The success of any protest in Saudi Arabia appears much less certain. The country has a brutal track record in suppressing dissent. In January, Saudi authorities enacted sweeping new censorship laws governing almost all internet publishing, including posts on social networking sites.

Police broke up a recent demonstration in Saudi Arabia's second largest city, Jeddah, after just 15 minutes, with the arrest of between 30 and 50 people. Protesters took to the streets after the city was devastated by floods in January, demanding political reforms and the introduction of a minimum wage of 10,000 riyals (£1,600).

On February 5th, around 40 women protested in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, demanding the release of prisoners held without trial.

A group of intellectuals, human rights activists and lawyers met on February 10th to form Saudi Arabia's first political party, the Umma Islamic Party, demanding an end to the country's absolute monarchy.

All of them were arrested on February 18th, with authorities demanding they renounce their demands in return for their release.