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Neom: Saudi forces 'told to kill' to clear land for eco-city

๐ŸŒˆ Abstract

The article discusses the displacement of local communities in Saudi Arabia due to the construction of the futuristic city of Neom, as well as the criticism and concerns raised by various individuals and organizations regarding the human rights violations associated with this project.

๐Ÿ™‹ Q&A

[01] Neom and Displacement of Local Communities

1. What is the Neom project and where is it being built?

  • Neom is a futuristic city being built in Saudi Arabia, described by the Saudi leader Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman as the "perfect blank canvas".
  • The area where Neom is being built has been the home of the Huwaitat tribe for generations.

2. How many people have been displaced for the Neom project?

  • According to the Saudi government, more than 6,000 people have been moved for the Neom project.
  • However, the UK-based human rights group ALQST estimates the figure to be higher.

3. What happened to the villages that were demolished for the Neom project?

  • The BBC analyzed satellite images of three villages - al-Khuraybah, Sharma and Gayal - that were demolished, with homes, schools, and hospitals being wiped off the map.

4. What was the response of the local population to the evictions?

  • Abdul Rahim al-Huwaiti, a member of the Huwaitat tribe, refused to allow a land registry committee to value his property and was subsequently shot dead by Saudi authorities.
  • At least 47 other villagers were detained after resisting evictions, many of whom were prosecuted on terror-related charges.

5. What was the justification given by the Saudi authorities for the use of force against the local population?

  • According to Col Alenezi, who was asked to enact the clearance order, the order stated that the Huwaitat tribe was made up of "many rebels" and that "whoever continues to resist [eviction] should be killed, so it licensed the use of lethal force against whoever stayed in their home".

[02] Criticism and Concerns Raised

1. What were the concerns raised by individuals and organizations regarding the Neom project?

  • A former senior executive of Neom's ski project, Andy Wirth, was disenchanted with the project's management and felt that the evictions were "terrible" and that the authorities were "stepping on the throats" of the local population.
  • Malcolm Aw, the CEO of a British desalination company, pulled out of a $100m project for The Line in 2022, criticizing the lack of consideration for the local population and their valuable knowledge of the area.
  • The UK-based human rights group ALQST and the UN have stated that the killing of Abdul Rahim al-Huwaiti was simply for resisting eviction, and that at least 40 other villagers remain in detention, with 5 on death row.

2. What were the concerns raised regarding the Jeddah Central project, another Saudi Vision 2030 scheme?

  • More than a million people have been displaced for the Jeddah Central project, which is set to include an opera house, sporting district, and high-end retail and residential units.
  • According to ALQST's survey, none of the 35 evicted people from Jeddah neighborhoods received compensation or sufficient warning, and more than half said they had been forced out of their homes under threat of arrest.

3. What are the broader concerns regarding the Saudi government's treatment of critics and dissidents?

  • Col Alenezi, who refused to carry out the eviction order, now fears for his security and was allegedly offered $5 million to attend a meeting at the Saudi embassy in London with the Saudi interior minister.
  • The article also mentions the high-profile case of Jamal Khashoggi, a US-based journalist who was murdered by Saudi agents inside the country's Istanbul consulate in 2018.
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