A campaign has been launched in defence of the Huwaitat tribe in north-west Saudi Arabia, following attempts by the kingdom to displace them in order to build the Neom megacity project.
Some 20,000 Huwaitat have faced intimidation, detainment and even death after speaking out against the displacement.
In response, the Justice for the Victims of Neom campaign group was launched in June by Alya Huawaity, the spokeswoman for the tribe who is now based in London.
Huawaity has said that the tribe has encountered a persistent campaign of intimidation and threats from the Saudi authorities and security services.
She added that the nightmare began in October 2017, after the tribes were told that a “great project” was coming to their land. This was the start of the threat to the Huwaitat’s 800 years on their land.
Tensions increased after the assassination of a tribal leader. On 13 April 2020, Abdul Rahim al-Huwaiti made a video claiming that the regime was attempting to evict his community from their land.
He vowed to resist the eviction order and predicted that the regime would plant weapons in his house to incriminate him, and that his life was in danger.
Soon after posting the video, he was dead. Al-Huwaiti’s house was surrounded by security forces and he died in the shootout. The Saudi forces claimed that he had opened fire on them and that they had been forced to retaliate.
Alhwaiti claims she has faced a barrage of harassment online and by telephone after raising the issue to an international audience, including circulating the video by Al-Huwaiti.
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