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Renowned Saudi Tribe Challenges Crown Prince MBS Plans For $500Bn Tech City

Revered in history as fearless warriors, the Huwaitat fought alongside T E Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia) in the Arab Revolt of 1917 and he mentioned them in his epic memoir, Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

DESPARDES — Saudi human rights activist Alya Abutayah Alhwaiti is raising international awareness about a Saudi government plan to evict members of her tribe to make way for the 21st Century $500bln high-tech city “Neom” on the shores of the Red Sea.

On 13 April, a man named Abdul Rahim al-Huwaiti posted videos online alerting the world that Saudi security forces were trying to evict him and other members of the Huwaitat tribe from their historic homeland in the far north-west of the country to clear the way for Neom, according to a BBC report.

Alya Alhwaiti, who is from the same tribe and lives in London, circulated the videos.

In the videos, Abdul Rahim al-Huwaiti vowed to defy the government’s eviction order. In one, he said he expected the authorities to plant weapons in his house to incriminate him.

Before his death, Abdul Rahim al-Huwaiti said the government would try to incriminate him (BBC)

He was later killed by Saudi security forces.

A statement issued by State Security confirmed his death, alleging that he had opened fire on security forces and that they had been forced to retaliate.

This version of events was vigorously denied by Ms Alhwaiti, who insisted that Abdul Rahim al-Huwaiti did not have any firearms.

“They are not against the building of Neom,” said Ms Alhwaiti. “They just don’t want to be forcibly evicted from a land their families have lived in for generations.”

She said eight of Abdul Rahim al-Huwaiti’s cousins had been arrested for protesting against the eviction order, but that together with human rights activists in the West they were hoping to mount a legal challenge.

The Huwaitat are a proud, ancient and traditionally nomadic Bedouin tribe that have lived on both sides of the Saudi-Jordanian border for hundreds of years.

Revered in history as fearless warriors, they fought alongside T E Lawrence in the Arab Revolt of 1917 and he mentioned them in his epic memoir, Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Alhwaiti alleges that she has received death threats from people she believes are supporters of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

She told BBC the threats were made in a phone call and on Twitter after she raised international awareness about a Saudi government plan to evict members of her tribe to make way for a 21st Century high-tech city on the shores of the Red Sea.

“We can get you in London,” Ms Alhwaiti said she was warned in the call. “You think you are safe there, but you are not.”

Ms Alhwaiti added that she was also threatened with “the same fate that happened to Jamal Khashoggi”. She has reported the threats to the British police.

The violent death of the protester is not the first problem to beset Crown Prince Mohammed’s ambitious plans to build this futuristic city intended to wean Saudi Arabia off its dependence on oil revenue.

More recently, the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the global economy and the oil price has plummeted to historic lows, hitting some of GCC oil producers’ state budgets revenue line items.

Kuwait has reportedly started cutting oil output ahead of May 1, the date when suppliers worldwide plan to start slashing production to counter a devastating glut amid efforts to stabilize the oil price slide in market.

“If it does not recover dramatically over time then it is hard to see how Riyadh is going to finance this (Neom) project, which was originally budgeted at around $500bn”, wrote BBC.

Around the world, at least one in every ten very large crude carriers (VLCCs)–each capable of holding 2 million barrels of oil–currently acts as a floating storage, oil officials from Saudi Arabia told The Wall Street Journal this week. Many of the supertankers carry Saudi crude, and some of it is not sold yet.

On Wednesday, the Kingdom’s Ministry of Interior announced an extraordinary initiative to facilitate the travel of expatriates who have an exit and reentry visa or final exit visa to return to their countries, reported Saudi Gazette.

The original report appeared in BBC

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