Over time, the crisis of Jeddah residents becomes more complex, as the authorities refuse to provide them with an alternative to their homes that were demolished by the authorities, or even provide adequate material compensation for the damages which will force hundreds of thousands to leave their homes to achieve the ambitions of the Crown Prince.
In December of last year, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched the general plan of the “Downtown Jeddah” project (formerly “New Jeddah Downtown”), with a total investment of 75 billion riyals allocated to develop 5.7 million square meters, funded by the Public Investment Fund and investors from inside and outside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
According to the plan, the project will include an opera house, a yacht marina, and world-class entertainment markets. Despite the grandeur of the scheme, the state disregarded that the area designated for the project is inhabited by residents.
According to experts, the huge Saudi project serves only a certain category of society, as if it was specifically designed for “investment, entertainment, consumption, and luxury projects, which do not serve only the interests of the country’s wealthy,”. The same thing is happening in the huge NEOM project, in which thousands of the Al-Huwaitat tribe, who and their ancestors have lived in the project’s land for hundreds of years, are being displaced.
Human rights sources say that the state has so far displaced about 7,196 people from the Dhahban neighborhood, 10,906 from the Thuwal neighborhood, 7973 from the Nuzha neighborhood, 9388 from the Mushrifa neighborhood, 121,590 from the Jama’a neighborhood, and 44,385 from the Al-Hindawiya neighborhood and the Tha’alba neighborhood.
According to the plan, so far, the demolition decisions include the removal of more than 13 residential neighborhoods out of the 34 neighborhoods that will be completely removed within the project.
Jeddah is located on the Red Sea coast. It is considered the economic and tourist capital of the Kingdom. The neighborhoods threatened with demolition are part of the social and urban history of the city, which is a center for trade and the gateway to Mecca.
The authorities claim that the demolitions are based on a legal basis to combat housing violations and remove slums, while the areas and neighborhoods, but in reality, they are historical neighborhoods.
According to human rights activists, the displacement of residents is illegal, as the government has violated international and local laws in this scheme, as international law requires the Saudi government to provide appropriate alternatives, follow legal procedures, and provide immediate, adequate, and effective compensation.
The Saudi law requires compensation for residents, 60 days after the government approves the project. Saudi citizens must receive 60 days’ notice.
In all cases, the Saudi authorities did not comply with any of the standards set to evict citizens from their homes and expropriate their lands and properties, and according to a large number of families, some of them received notice of eviction within only 24 hours without providing an alternative or compensation.
The Saudi crown prince has emphasized on more than one occasion that he will not back down from his plans for development and modernisation. On one occasion he spoke that he is determined to build his “own pyramids” in the Arabian Peninsula, to match Pharaonic pyramids, however, he will only exploit the energies of and capabilities of the people in order to serve his aspirations and projects.
We call on the international community to stand in solidarity with the people of the city of Jeddah, which includes more than one million people, and to intervene in order to ensure that they are not displaced, or that they receive appropriate alternatives in line with the international law.