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09th May 2024

Saudi forces ‘told to kill’ in order to clear space for The Line

Ryan Price

The Line is a feature of a desert city being constructed in the region by a group of Western companies.

Saudi authorities have reportedly been permitted to use lethal force to clear land for the construction of Neom, a futuristic eco-city being developed by several Western companies.

Col Rabih Alenezi, a former senior official in Saudi Arabia’s security service who currently resides in the UK after seeking asylum, told the BBC that officers in the area are being “told to kill” in order to clear out villages and towns so that the development of the project can progress.

He also revealed that a protestor who resisted the eviction of locals from his village was shot and killed.

Neom, is a £400 billion eco-region created by dozens of global companies, several of them British, with the aim of diversifying Saudi industry.

It’s flagship feature, The Line, is a car-free city that will be 200m wide and 170km long, which is the equivalent of the distance from Bristol to London.

The area proposed for the development of the futuristic city was previously described by Saudi leader Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman as a “blank canvas”, but so far over 6,000 people have been displaced from their homes as a result of the early stages of construction.

UK-based human rights group ALQST estimates the numbers to be much higher.

Satellite images obtained by the BBC show the destruction in the village of Sharma, where many of the homes, schools and hospitals that made up the town have been completely wiped out since the Neom project started.

Col Alenezi said that he was asked to enact a clearance order for al-Khuraybah, an area located 4.5km south of The Line, before he escaped to the UK.

The villages of that area are mostly occupied by the Huwaitat tribe, who have inhabited the region for generations.

The clearance order, issued in April 2020, claimed that the Huwaitat were made up of “mostly rebels” and warned “whoever continues to resist [eviction] should be killed.”

One of the leaders of the tribe, Abdul Rahim al-Huwaiti, refused to allow a land registry committee to value his property and was subsequently shot by Saudi authorities a day later.

A statement issued shortly after by Saudi state security alleged that al-Huwaiti opened fire on security forces and therefore they had to retaliate.

Several villagers were arrested in the days that followed for publicly mourning al-Huwaiti’s death on social media.

Saudi authorities claim that those asked to relocate in order to make way for construction of The Line have been offered compensation, but ALQST reports that the figures paid out have been substantially less than those offered.

On the official Neom website, The Line is described as “a cognitive city stretching across 170 kilometers, from the epic mountains of NEOM across inspirational desert valleys to the beautiful Red Sea.

“A mirrored architectural masterpiece towering 500 meters above sea level, but a land-saving 200 meters wide. THE LINE redefines the concept of urban development and what cities of the future will look like,” the description continues.

“No roads, cars or emissions, it will run on 100% renewable energy and 95% of land will be preserved for nature. People’s health and wellbeing will be prioritized over transportation and infrastructure, unlike traditional cities.

“The Line will eventually accommodate 9 million people and will be built on a footprint of just 34 square kilometers. This will mean a reduced infrastructure footprint, creating never-before-seen efficiencies in city functions. The ideal climate all-year-round will ensure that residents can enjoy the surrounding nature. Residents will also have access to all daily essentials within a five-minute walk, in addition to high-speed rail – with an end-to-end transit of 20 minutes.”

Only 2.4km of the project is expected to be completed by 2030.

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