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Al-Huwaitat tribe's pleas with UN to stop Saudi forced displacement over NEOM mega-city project

Saudi Arabia received criticism over its NEOM city project [Getty]

Date of publication: 10 October, 2020

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One tribe is calling on the United Nations to intervene in what it is calling a campaign of forced displacement by Saudi authorities in NEOM bid.
A tribe that is being forcibly evicted by Saudi authorities has sent a desperate plea for help to the United Nations as the kingdom pushes forward with the controversial NEOM mega-city project.

The indigenous al-Huwaitat tribe has urged the UN to investigate allegations of forced displacement and abuse at the hands of Saudi authorities.

A request was submitted late last month and follows what appears to be a systematic campaign of alleged arrests and abductions over the tribe’s refusal to relocate to make way for the building of the mega-city.

Thirteen tribe members, including activist Suleiman Mohammed al-Taqique al-Hwaiti, were arrested and imprisoned and are still being held incommunicado in prison, according to a tribal activist who spoke to Al Jazeera.

On October 1, two more tribe members were arrested near Fahad Bin Sultan University for allegedly criticising the government and NEOM project on social media.

Their locations remain unknown, tribe members said.

Alya Alhwaiti, who represents the tribe from London, told the publication:

"What we want is for the world to support us in our case, to show them how the Mohammed bin Salman regime is abusing the people, terrifying the people."

Rodney Dixon QC, who was one of the lawyers who had submitted the UN application, insisted that what is happening in the region is a "violation of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights".

He added: "The rights of internally displaced people and Indigenous rights are enshrined in the UNDHR, which does bind Saudi Arabia. What we’re also focusing on is the human rights abuses – where people are being threatened, assaulted, and murdered. It’s also the violation of a person’s rights to life, and their right to wellbeing and safety."

NEOM’s bloody history

Building of Crown Prince Bin Salman’s proposed megacity hasn’t even began, yet it has already been embroiled in controversy.

While construction is still underway, thousands of locals and tribal families who had lived in the region for centuries were forcibly evicted from their homes. In April, Saudi activist Abdul-Rahman al-Huweiti of the Huweitat tribe was killed by Saudi while resisting eviction.

The slain activist's sister, Alya Alhwaiti, has launched a social media using the hashtag #JusticeforNeomVictims seeking to bring light to rights violations carried out in order to see MbS' NEOM project come to fruition.

She is also calling for an international and independent investigation into forced evictions of locals carried out by Saudi authorities to push through NEOM.

Alya Alhuwaiti's campaign is now serving as the sole local voice of opposition to the offered compensations. Saudi media offers no space for criticism of MbS' plans.

Members of the local Huwaiti tribe have joined in saying compensation is not an option for those forcibly removed.

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