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Saudi arrests family of tribal leader killed for refusing to give up home for NEOM project

The home of Abdul Rahim Al-Hwaiti destroyed after he refused to give up his home to make way for the Saudi's NEOM mega-city project, 17 April 2020 [metesohtaoglu /Twitter]
The home of Abdul Rahim Al-Hwaiti destroyed after he refused to give up his home to make way for the Saudi's NEOM mega-city project, 17 April 2020 [metesohtaoglu /Twitter]

Saudi authorities have arrested eight members of the Al-Hwaiti tribe in the north-western town of Al-Khuraybah only days their relative and tribal leader Abdul Rahim Al-Hwaiti was shot dead for refusing to give up his home to make way for the kingdom’s NEOM mega-city project.

Al Jazeera reported witnesses as saying that authorities arrested eight members of the Al-Hwaiti tribe for refusing to give up their homes for the NEOM project.

The murder of Abdul Rahim Al-Hwaiti by the Saudi security forces sparked outrage with hundreds of social media users accusing Saudi of delaying the handover of the man’s body to his family for burial.

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Prior to his death, Abdul Rahim posted a video online in which he criticised NEOM, saying the village residents had been forcibly removed from their homes after facing pressure from the government and rejecting financial compensation to move. In the video, Abdul Rahim said he expected to be targeted for refusing to bow to government pressure.

“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,” he said.

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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