Saudi authorities have resumed demolition of structures and buildings across 12 neighbourhoods in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah after the process was temporarily halted during the month of Ramadan.
The move, intended to develop and reinvigorate the city, has divided opinions and has faced angry opposition on social media and by the local residents who accuse the authorities of neglecting the once vibrant and diverse area. The demolitions and forced evictions of the residents has reportedly left hundreds of families homeless.
However authorities justify the process by citing high crime rates, drug use, illegal immigration and human trafficking which they say are rampant in the neighbourhoods.
On Sunday, a spokesman for the Jeddah Municipality, Muhammad Al-Baqmi, confirmed that the removal process will continue in the neighbourhoods of Bani Malik and Al-Wurud. He pointed out that there are a 64 slums in the city, and that the authorities aim to remove 34 of them.
Last month, a survey released by a British-based Saudi human rights organisation ALQST found that most of the respondents in a questionnaire said that they were not given adequate notice ahead of the evictions nor offered compensation for their losses.
“Land confiscation and forcible displacement are longstanding practices of the Saudi authorities, particularly the illegal seizure of land and real estate in areas the authorities have earmarked for development,” the organisation reported.
“The most notorious recent example of this was the brutal displacement of thousands of members of the Huwaitat tribe in 2020 from an area near the Red Sea in order for the Neom megacity project to go ahead.”
In line with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s Vision2030, the Saudi government is looking to develop the kingdom’s attractiveness to foreign investment and visitors. Unveiled last year, the Jeddah Central project will revamp and revitalise about 5.7 million square metres at a cost of around $20 billion and will include an oceanarium, an opera house and a sports stadium.