Hittil har man ansett det for usannsynlig at uroen i Midtøsten kunne spre seg til Saudi-Arabia. Men et opprop på Facebook samlet 30.000 tilhengere. Og skytingen i shia-dominerte Qatif får alarmklokkene til å ringe i verdens oljemarkeder.
Hvor stabilt er det saudiske kongedømmet? Hvor sterk motvind tåler det?
Politiet er mannsterkt til stede i både Riyadh og Jeddah fredag.
A loose coalition of liberals, rights activists, moderate Sunni Islamists and Shi’ite Muslims has called for reform and a Facebook page urging protests, strictly forbidden in the conservative kingdom, attracted more than 30,000 supporters.
«The fact the Saudi regime is making a big deal of this suggests that it may be a big deal … If the first kind of explicitly pro-democracy protests happen (on Friday) that sets a precedent and we’ll probably see more pro-democracy protests,» said Shadi Hamid, of the Brookings Centre in Doha.
«Even if its 200 or 300 that is still, by Saudi standards, a big deal and something to worry about.»
Hvor stor betydning skal man tillegge misnøyen som kommer til syne? Hvor dypt stikker den?
The world’s biggest oil exporter has made it clear it does not tolerate any protests or political parties, which it says are unnecessary in an Islamic state applying Islamic law.
Activists in Saudi Arabia are not seeking the downfall of the king but want political reform and economic opportunities.
«Saudi young men and women aren’t just frustrated, they are miserably in despair. Everyone I have talked with here is complaining,» Saudi blogger Murtadha Almtawaah wrote.
«They complain about the bad infrastructure of the cities and the roads, the absence of civil society and freedom, the bad education system, women rights and finally the corruption.»
Human Rights First called on the government to use restraint in dealing with any protests. «We ask that all police forces be kept away from the streets or be completely neutralized,» the Saudi-based group said.
Denne «ingen-innrømmelser»-linjen er neppe et tegn på styrke. Kong Abdullah varslet sist måned at han vil dele ut 36 milliarder dollar til befolkningen. Men penger kan neppe erstatte politiske reformer.