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Saudi tribal leader killed after refusing to give up home for NEOM project

'I don’t want to leave, I want to stay in my home. I do not want compensation, I don’t want anything. I only want my home.'

Saudi forces shot a citizen who refused to give up his home in order to make way for the kingdom’s so-called NEOM mega-project, initiated by Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman (MBS).

Abdul Rahim Al-Hwaiti of the Al-Hwaitat tribe in the north-western town of Al-Khuraybah posted a video online in which he criticised the project and exposed the areas where his neighbours had been forcibly removed after facing pressure from the government and rejecting financial compensation to move.

“People are being wiped out from their homes and people do not agree with what is happening at all. But the way in which the state has dealt with things can only be described as terrorism… state terrorism,” he said.

I am against the forced removal of people. I don’t want to leave, I want to stay in my home. I do not want compensation, I don’t want anything. I only want my home.

“The general feeling here is that people are opposed to it, and no amount of compensation will make up for that, even if you pay them 100 million riyals,” Al-Hwaiti added.

He also predicted his demise at the hands of the security forces, stating “I would not be surprised if they come and kill me in my home now like they do in Egypt, throw weapons in your home and call you a terrorist… this is my home and I’ll protect it.”

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In one video, gunfire could be heard in the distance, while other footage reveals the damage to Hwaiti’s property including walls riddled with bullet holes.

On Wednesday, the official Saudi News Agency (SPA) confirmed Al-Hwaiti’s killing and claimed that he had refused to surrender and opened fire on security forces, which subsequently led to a fatal gunfight.

Omar Bin Abdul Aziz, a Saudi political activist, dubbed Al-Hwaiti the “martyr of NEOM” which is being used as a hashtag in Arabic along with “The martyrdom of Abdul Rahim Al-Hwaiti”.

Al Jazeera reported that one London-based Saudi activist, Alia Abutayah, who is from the city of Tabuk in the north-west region said she had received several videos including one that shows the shooting of Al-Hwaiti by security forces, which she posted on Twitter, although her account now no longer exists.

NEOM, also known as the Red Sea development is envisioned to be in the Tabuk province, MBS hopes it will become a hub for “tourism, innovation and technology” as part of his Vision 2030 to transform the image of Saudi Arabia into one that is more moderate and to diversify its oil-based economy. According to NEOM’s website, the project will include “towns and cities, ports and enterprise zones, research centres, sports and entertainment venues, and tourist destinations”. “It will be the home and workplace for more than a million citizens from around the world,” it said.

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