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Saudi Arabia Authorised Me To Kill Tribals To Clear Land For Eco-City, Claims Exiled Saudi Colonel

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has allowed the use of force and even killings to clear land to make NEOM, claims an ex-intelligence exiled Saudi officer. Speaking to the BBC, Col Rabih Alenezi said that he was ordered to evict and kill protesting tribal villagers for ‘The Line’ which is part of the Neom-eco-project.

According to western media reports, Col Alenezi, who has since gone into exile since last year, and is believed to be living in the UK, the land belongs to the Huwaitat tribe. The tribe has been struggling with forced displacement by Saudi authorities and has even sent a request to the UN in September 2020 asking them to look into the matter.

Saudi authorities have not commented on the matter so far.

Neom which is being constructed as an estimated cost of $500bn (£399bn) is being designed as a futuristic smart city. It is part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 strategy, which aims to diversify the Kingdom’s economy away from oil. The Line is its flagship project which is expected to have no cars or carbon emissions as it will be powered entirely from renewable energy.

Construction on the project has been slower than expected with a Bloomberg report stating that plans for the number of residents staying there have been scaled back from 1.5 million to 300,000. This is because construction plans for the city have been sluggish.

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According to the BBC report, it is not just people but entire villages that have been demolished in the bid to create Neom. Satellite images show that three villages al-Khuraiba, Sharma and Gayal have been demolished, according to the report.

Mena Rights Group, a Geneva-based legal advocacy NGO, focusing on the protection and promotion of fundamental rights and freedoms in the Middle East and North Africa, said in a report published in June 2020 that “authorities began pressuring people and sending in the Saudi special forces (to al-Khurabia village) sometimes with more than 40 vehicles at a time, to raid the homes of those resisting eviction.

In response to the community’s unwillingness to report to the committees, the committees started visiting people in their homes, escorted by security forces, to list and measure properties by force.” One dissident, Abdul Rahim Al Huwaiti, who took to social media to voice his opposition to being evicted was killed, according to the report.

The reports so far have not been independently confirmed, but increasingly human rights groups like Mena are pointing out that there is a dark side to the dazzling smart city being constructed. Whatever the truth, Saudi Arabia may find it harder to create Neom than it was originally expected.