Saudi Arabia kills man, forcefully displaces thousands of its citizens to build its new NEOM City
In 2017, Crown Prince and de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman announced his vision for a $500 billion high-tech dream city.
Abdul Rahim al-Howeiti, a Saudi citizen who refused government orders to give up his house to make way for the new mega-project, was killed by security forces, according to Saudi activists.
Al-Howeiti had posted several videos online. In them, he protested about what he called the “forced displacement” of his tribe from the Red Sea region. He said Saudi officials showed up at his doorstep and offered him money in exchange for his land. He refused both the money and to leave his homeland.
In return, the Saudi forces killed him and demolished his home. The authorities said that he was a “wanted terrorist” and that he attacked the security forces first, injuring two officers.
However, Saudi activists said the official narrative was flawed, and al-Howeiti was shot dead after recording a video documenting security forces illegally storming his property.
Abdul Rahim’s funeral was attended by hundreds of his Howeitat tribesmen, despite the governmental restriction, who also reject the authorities’ plans to displace them from their homeland. Many people have been arrested, and some have left the country.
For hundreds of years, the Howeitat tribe had occupied towns and villages, including a historical capital, Khuraybah, across the northwestern province of Tabuk. Now, some 20,000 people are set to be pushed out to make room for NEOM City.
What is NEOM City?
In 2017, Crown Prince and de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman announced his vision for a $500 billion high-tech dream city to be populated by tourists, technology start-ups, and wealthy investors.
Saudi officials say that the city would have more robots than humans, with mass, facial recognition, and surveillance to eliminate crime, drone-operated air taxis instead of roads, and a seaside luxury resort, cruise, and entertainment complex. It is speculated that the city will have a liberal-lifestyle, with alcohol being permissible and citizens doing whatever they want.
The Howeitat tribe, who’s ancestral land will be razed off to make way for NEOM, would never fit into this exciting cosmopolitan hub. And so the government is trying to bribe them for their land to get them out.
“For the Howeitat tribe, Neom is being built on our blood, on our bones,” says Alia al-Howaiti, a member of the tribe and an outspoken activist residing in London. “It’s definitely not for the people already living there! It’s for tourists, people with money. But not for the original people (Howeitat) living there.”
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