Saudi Shiite women hold placards bearing a portrait of prominent Shiite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr during a protest in the eastern coastal city of Qatif against his execution by Saudi authorities, on January 2, 2016. AFP PHOTO / STR
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Since Saturday's execution of four Shiite Muslims in Saudi Arabia, hundreds or thousands of the minority sect have marched nightly in protest, and their anger could herald wider unrest.The protests in Qatif, an almost entirely Shiite district of about a million people in the oil-producing Eastern Province, have been mostly peaceful, though a fatal shooting and gun attacks on armored security vehicles have also taken place.DISCRIMINATION CHARGEThe security forces believe they can quash any mass protests in Qatif, like those that began during the 2011 Arab Spring when Nimr became a figurehead, or the 1979 uprising inspired by Iran's revolution, analysts say. Qatif is almost entirely populated by Shiites and can be physically isolated by the government. During and after the 2011 protests, eight policemen and seven civilians were killed in attacks by Shiites that were connected to Iran and carried out by people linked to Nimr, Riyadh says.Nimr and the three other Shiites were executed on Saturday along with 43 Sunni al-Qaeda convicts.More young Shiites detained over the 2011 protests and subsequent attacks have been sentenced to execution.
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