US embassy urges Saudis to hold peaceful protests if they want to see 'change'
The embassy of the United States in Saudi Arabia has caused controversy after it seemed to encourage Saudis to take part in protests in the kingdom to bring about "positive political and social change".
The US mission's official Twitter account published a video on Wednesday, endorsing peaceful protests and informing viewers on how they could take part in movements demanding change.
Protests are strictly banned in the authoritarian absolute monarchy and people taking part in them have been executed.
"Even in oppressive, authoritarian conditions protesters can tailor their campaigns to succeed," a narrator in the video says.
"Research shows that between 1900 and 2006, campaigns of nonviolent resistance were more than twice as effective as their violent counterparts," they add.
The move comes at a time of strained relations between Washington and Riyadh over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul.
The Senate voted last week to hold Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman responsible for Khashoggi's killing, and separately end US military support for a Riyadh-led war in Yemen.
Riyadh has condemned the resolutions as "blatant interference in its internal affairs."
Pro-government Twitter users in the kingdom reacted angrily to the US embassy's call for action.
"This is a dangerous, unwarranted and will have the opposite effect. We demand this is removed because it is inciting demonstrations and riots," said Saudi media advisor Mubarak Al Attay.
Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province has seen bouts of unrest since 2011 when protesters emboldened by the Arab Spring took to the streets demanding an end to what they say is discrimination by the Wahhabi kingdom.
The kingdom has sentenced at least 21 Shia protesters to death for their role in the demonstrations, including prominent cleric Nimr al-Nimr.
Nimr was executed along with three of the sentenced men in January 2016, sparking widespread outrage and leading to renewed tensions with regional rival Iran.
Crown Prince Mohammed has recently led a ruthless crackdown on political rivals to tighten up grip on power.