JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, March 9 (Reuters) - Students at a women's university in Saudi Arabia said on Friday they planned to boycott classes after dozens were hurt during a campus protest following the intervention of security forces.
Public displays of dissent are rare and usually suppressed in Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy that is a close U.S. ally and the world's No. 1 oil exporter.
Students at King Khalid University in the town of Abha told Reuters by telephone that a strike was planned for Saturday, that start of the week in the conservative Muslim kingdom.
They said around 8,000 students demonstrated on Wednesday against a move by the university administration to keep cleaning crews away after accusing students of not doing enough to help keep their areas tidy. Piles of trash accumulated.
"On Wednesday ... security forces entered the campus with sticks, threatening the students by banging them against chairs and desks. Later the forces used fire extinguishers on the girls...," said one student, who like others asked not be identified for their own safety.
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 rumours of deaths.
Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in education to deal with high youth unemployment in a country where about 70 percent of the native population of 19 million is under the age of 30. (Reporting by Asma Alsharif; Editing by Mark Heinrich)