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'Violence at campus' as Saudi women strike

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At least 50 female students have been injured after security forces tried to break up a protest earlier this week at the King Khalid University in the Saudi town of Abha.

Students told the Reuters news agency by telephone that about 8,000 students had demonstrated on Wednesday against a move by the university administration to keep cleaners away, after it accused students of not doing enough to help keep their living areas tidy.

Following the violence, which took place on the grounds of the university, students said on Friday that they planned to boycott classes after dozens were hurt during the clashes.

Several amateur videos have been posted online showing hundreds of women taking part in the protest.

"On Wednesday ... security forces entered the campus with sticks, threatening the students by banging them against chairs and desks," the students told Reuters,

"Later the forces used fire extinguishers on the girls," said one student, who like others asked not be identified for their own safety.
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Saeed al-Mugair, a health ministry spokesman, said 53 students suffered minor injuries in the fracas.

He, as well as students contacted by Reuters, denied reports that at least one woman had died.

The students said that a further strike was planned for Saturday

'Day of Rage'

Separately on Friday, Amnesty International complained that at least six men remain imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for planning to take part in protests a year ago.

Saudi activists declared March 11th last year as a "Day of Rage" to emulate other protests in the region.

The London-based group said in a statement that only one of the men arrested is thought to have actually protested, while most have not been charged.

Philip Luther, Amnesty director or the Middle East, said "holding people for a year merely for intending to protest is completely unconscionable".

"It is time for the authorities to come clean about who is being held for acts of protest and on what basis," he said in a statement.

The group urged Saudi authorities to investigate reports of torture and prosecute those held responsible for abuses.

The kingdom, a close ally of the US, is often criticized by rights groups for curbing freedoms, especially of women and religious minorities.

Public displays of dissent are rare and usually suppressed.


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