) -- Saudi Arabian activists are calling for civilians to take to the streets on Friday in a 'Day of Rage' to rally against a government ban on protests that was announced earlier this month.

Activist organizers are using social networking sites to stage rallies calling for political and social changes in the conservative kingdom, which is controlled by King Abdullah and the royal ruling family, the House of Saud.

Saudi Shiite protesters hold Saudi flags and signs during a demonstration in Qatif, Saudi Arabia. Activists in Saudi Arabia's Shiite Muslim minority are calling for a "Day of Rage" on Friday.

Opposition demonstrations are rare in Saudi Arabia because of the government's strict control over the nation. However, more than 32,000 people have backed a call on Facebook to hold two protests this month, the first being Friday's planned 'Day of Rage' in the nation's capital, Riyadh.

Many Saudis have expressed hesitance to join the rallies because of the government's low tolerance of dissent.

"I am not so sure much will happen Friday. We just don't know," Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association president Mohammed al-Qahtani said. "It's like an experiment."

The price of oil has been very sensitive to any developments in the Middle East where social and political tensions remain high.

Saudi Arabia is the second largest oil producer in the world

, responsible for 8.3 million barrels a day, according to

The Associated Press


Oil prices dropped about 3% on Thursday morning, but jumped back up following reports that Saudi police opened fire at protesters in the eastern part of the nation. Many analysts are worried that oil prices could surge even higher if protests continue to rock the Mideast nations.

Oil prices soared above $100 a barrel last week as many oil exporters in Libya were forced to shut down the country's exports due to massive political upheaval.

Current oil prices are around $115 a barrel.

Amnesty International is now calling on Saudi authorities to relax the ban on protests in the nation, fearing the possibility of a violent crackdown on Friday's planned demonstrations.


Written by Theresa McCabe in Boston.

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