- There are relatively liberal human rights advocates among the educated city folks, but they are mostly heavily monitored and repressed. These are focused on the domestic issues of freedom and corruption and advocating for a civic society. Often they are thrown in prison on trumped up charges, as many ACPRAHR leaders are.
- There are the marginalized restive Shi’as in their native homeland of the Eastern Province who have been restless and in an uprising mood for years.
- Then there is a more interesting but growing animal, the relatively recent Wahhabi opposition. A Wahhabi opposition to a Wahhabi theocratic monarchy. Needless to say, these latter are groups that were born of the domestic and foreign efforts of the Saudi system itself.
This last one is a bit odd, since the Salafis, like the rest of the Saudi political and religious establishment, believe in obeying the Wahhabi ruler no matter what. In that they rely on an old Hadith, or a quote that alleges to quote the Prophet Mohammed about obedience to a ‘Muslim’ ruler. By their doctrine they can justify it only by insisting that a particular ruler is “not Muslim”, which these days means “not Wahhabi enough”. Of course they believe that anyone who i not a Wahhabi/Salafi is not a Muslim: that is how they justify blowing up Iraqi and Syrian civilians and beheading them and enslaving their women as sex concubines.
Needless to say much of this last Wahhabi opposition supports the more extremist groups like Al-Qaeda, AQAP, and especially the Caliphate of ISIS and Al-Nusra Front and their ilk in recent years. They focus exclusively on aiding these Jihadist groups from Yemen to Syria and Iraq and beyond. Yet like some other tribal/Salafi opposition movements on the Persian Gulf these latter are violently against the continuing Bahrain protests and are happy to have the Al Saud help crush them. These groups are also very active on the Internet social media. Some of their top “activists” have followers in the millions. They seem to have three main complaints:
- the Al Saud are not following the true Salafi line of Islam. That is the only way a Salafi can justify disobedience;
- the Al Saud are too nice to the local Shi’as (as well as to those in Iran and Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen);
- the Al Saud are plotting with all of the above as well as with Al Assad of Syria against the true faithful of the ISIS Caliphate and Al Qaeda. Occasionally they throw in Israel and the United States, probably just to cover all their bases. This line in support of ISIS is also taken by other such Gulf groups, including much of the Kuwait opposition which also, oddly, rejects any local criticism of the Al Saud even as they blast the local ruling family.
These are Wahhabi ‘activists’ on the social media, although I believe the more prominent ones are doing it from the safety of Western capitals. None of them, as far as I know, has offered to relocate in Raqqa (Syria) or Mosul (Iraq). Mostly the more prominent among them comment openly under their own names. One of the most popular of them goes under the nom de plume of Mujtahidd (various meanings in Arabic: hard working, originator of ideas, interpreter of Shari’a, etc). He is not shy to comment freely, but is too ‘shy’ to write under his own name, which some might think makes him a bit less “hammam” than he claims to be in his brief Twitter bio. But he claims to have access to insider information deep within the Saudi power structure, sort of like those Hollywood gossip columnists of a bygone pre-Internet era.
Good news for the Al Saud: these various ‘opposition’ groups seem like young children, playing around each other rather than with each other. Studiously avoiding crossing paths. Ideological, tribal, and sectarian factors keep them separate and that keeps the Al Saud happy. This division of the opposition is certain to continue.