The Line has started construction, Bedouin protestors evicted sentenced to death

The Line, drone footage, construction, bedouin sentenced to death

Drone footage of The Line underway. Meanwhile Bedouin who live there are sentenced to death.

Drone footage shows that Saudi Arabia’s multi-billion dollar project, The Line is underway. The vertical mega city will jut out from the Red Sea, against criticisms of Saudi Arabia being short-sighted about environmental goals, human rights abuses and sustainable housing for people who already live there.

The Line, vertical mega city, Saudi Arabia

But the Saudi Crown Prince is adamant about being in favor with the west. A recent announcement that the Saudi Government-owned Lucent Motors (NASDAQ:LCNT) will start a manufacturing plant in Saudi Arabia said exactly that. They want favor with the West. This is not how you do it.

Drone footage by aerial photography company Ot Sky showed that work has begun on the construction of The Line in Saudi Arabia, which is part of Neom development. Excavators at work are seen digging trenches for the linear city, which is set to be 150 miles long (170km), 550 yards tall (500 meters) with a heavily mirrored facade.

The Line, Neom, rendering, vertical city

Rending of The Line, near the Red Sea

Skeptics (especially us, along with Greenpeace) are critical of the development but footage shows that construction of The Line is well underway.  The bigger plan is mapped out below.

The Line, Neom, Oxagon

Mapping out Neom’s new development including the vertical city, The Line, and Oxagon, an industrial center

Saudi Arabia has already murdered a Bedouin protestor who was forcibly removed from his land but wouldn’t give it up for Neom, the name of the land development project.

Neom promotional text

Neom has hired great copywriters, probably the best that money can buy. But great copy won’t whitewash human rights abuses that have been at the core of developing Neom where Bedouin tribes already live.

Human rights organisation ALQST reports that Saudi Arabia has sentenced three men to death who had been forcibly evicted from the Neom site. One of them is the brother of the man who was murdered in 2020. They are Bedouin tribespeople, a nomadic race of people found in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, usually treated as second class citizens to their government or rulers. 

The Bedouin, Beduin, or Bedu are nomadic Arab tribes who have historically inhabited the desert regions in the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa, the Levant, and Mesopotamia. The Bedouin originated in the Arabian Desert but spread across the rest of the Arab world in West Asia and North Africa after the spread of Islam (Wikipedia).

Sentenced to death for protesting in Saudi Arabia

Protesting in the Middle East can land you a death sentence or torture. Like protestors against the treatment of Lake Urmia.  Or going against the modesty code in Iran

Shadli al-Huwaiti, Ibrahim al-Huwaiti and Ataullah al-Huwaiti, who are members of the Huwaitat Bedouin tribe, were sentenced to death after being “forcibly evicted and displaced to make way for the Neom megaproject”, according to a human rights organization ALQST, based in London and founded by Yahya Assiri.

death sentences for men protesting Neom

Shadli al-Huwaiti, Ibrahim al-Huwaiti and Ataullah al-Huwaiti sentenced to death for protesting their eviction.

Shadli al-Huwaiti is the brother of Abdul Rahim al-Huwaiti, shot dead by security forces in April 2020 in his home in Al-Khariba, in the part of Tabuk province earmarked for the Neom project, after he posted videos on social media opposing the displacement of local residents to make way for the project.

In May this year Shadli went on hunger strike in protest against ill-treatment and being placed in solitary confinement, and after two weeks the Dhahban Prison administration inserted a tube into his stomach to force-feed him, also a form of torture, according to ALQST.

Even before the April 2020 killing of Abdul Rahim al-Huwaiti, other members of the Huwaitat tribe had been arrested for refusing to be evicted from their homes, and others have been arrested since. Some have been sentenced to extraordinary prison terms: Abdullah and Abdulilah al-Huwaiti were each sentenced in August 2022 to 50 years.

Abdul-Rahim al-Howeiti

Abdul Rahim al-Huwaiti murdered while protesting the development of Neom

After killing Abdul Rahim al-Huwaiti and arresting several others who opposed eviction, the authorities set about trying to force other members of the tribe to endorse the authorities’ actions and to disown Abdul Rahim, by promising to pay them 100,000 rials ($26,000 USD) each, or 300,000 for those they appointed as tribal sheikhs, to take part in a propaganda pageant dissociating themselves from Abdul Rahim and the others, and “renewing their allegiance”, as the authorities put it.

If you visit or work for NEOM, you are complicit

The Saudi authorities have repeatedly resorted to forced evictions to clear areas of their residents, according to ALQST, in operations characterised by a lack of transparency and abuses such as failure to pay adequate compensation.

The authorities even employed armed force in the case of the Huwaitat in Tabuk in 2020, and in the bulldozing of the historic Al-Musawwara district of Awamiya in the eastern part of the country in 2017. 

Saudi Arabia resorts to despotic methods to pursue their plans, with no respect for peoples’ rights to decent housing, and without those who wish to raise complaints having any recourse to justice. 

Anyone who visits, works for, or publicises positive feedback about The Line, Trojena, or any of the Neom projects are complicit in the pursuit of Saudi’s terrible actions against its own people.

Saudi Arabia has a criminal justice system based on a form of Shari’ah reflecting a particular state-sanctioned interpretation of Islam. Execution is usually carried out by beheading with a sword but may occasionally be performed by shooting.

Saudi Arabia performs public executions.

According to ALQST Saudi authorities have carried out 122 executions in 2022. In March alone they executed 104 prisoners including 81 on a single day, roughly half of whom were from al-Qatif and al-Ahsa in eastern Saudi Arabia, areas that had seen widespread demonstrations calling for reform during the previous decade.

Saudi Arabia may desperately want to be accepted by the west in business and leisure, and to be a green and eco super hero, spearheading renewable energy and EVs. But its ruler’s behavior of disappearing protestors and journalists shows that it’s still about 2400 years in the past. 

We sent an email from Neom and are waiting for some answers. 

Rowan Moore at The Guardian calls on architects to answer to the abuses. Neom, he writes, “is aided and abetted by western consultancies such as the once-hip Californian practice of Morphosis (which is designing The Line) and the London-based Zaha Hadid Architects (at work in Trojena), both of them winners of the biggest prize in architecture, the Pritzker. How might they square what’s left of their progressive reputations with a real estate endeavour where objectors get killed?”

Is The Line a knock-off from an Iranian Architect’s floating city?

On top of all this, The Line looks like a steroidal knock-off from this 2018 rendition of a floating city by the Iranian architect Kamran Heirati. Heirati had a lot more common sense and concern for his people when he came up with the concept.

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