JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, March 11 (UPI) -- Planned street protests Friday in Saudi Arabia were muted with heavy police reported in the country, though one analyst said mass unrest in unlikely.
Shiites in the eastern part of the country are calling for more freedoms from the Saudi family that has ruled the country for most of the last 100 years.
Anti-government demonstrators inspired by the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia have called for so-called Days of Rage to follow Friday prayers in much of the Arab world.
Witnesses told The Washington Post there were scattered protests in parts of the country. Most went by without incident amid a heavy police presence.
The muted tone Friday follows confrontations Thursday in the oil-rich Eastern province. Saudi police fired in the air to disperse demonstrators and witnesses told the BBC police beat protesters with batons leaving at least three people injured.
The protesters were demanding the release of nine Shiite prisoners they say have been held without trial for more than 14 years.
Middle East and North African observes worry about the geopolitical and economic consequences of a major upheaval in Saudi Arabia. But Nawaf Obaid, a senior fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, writes in Foreign Policy magazine that Saudi Arabia isn't like the rest of the region.
"Saudi Arabia is not ripe for revolution," he writes. "Not even close."