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Around 47 members of the Howeitat tribe in Saudi Arabia have been detained on charges of resisting eviction from the area where the NEOM megacity is being constructed, according to a new report from the human rights organization ALQST published on 16 February.
The report titled “The Dark Side of Neom” mentioned the names of those detained, alongside individuals who have previously protested against the $500 million megacity, which plans to serve as a “technological hub and tourist destination” in Saudi Arabia.
The organizers and investors of the Neom project claim that the city will be 33 times bigger than New York City and is set to extend 170 kilometers in a straight line in the Tabuk province of northwestern Saudi Arabia.
The Howeitat tribe has lived in the province for centuries. The report disclosed that 15 members of the tribe have already been sentenced to 15-50 years in prison, eight have been released from detention, while 19 others are currently detained awaiting a verdict.
In October 2022, the kingdom’s Specialized Criminal Court sentenced three members of the Howeitat tribe to death for resisting forced evictions from the Tabuk region.
The three tribesmen, Shadli, Atallah, and Ibrahim al-Howeiti, were detained in 2020 for speaking out against the eviction of their tribe from the area, which was cleared by Saudi authorities to make way for the Neom project. The three received their sentences in August 2022, alongside a 50-year travel ban.
“These shocking sentences again show the Saudi authorities’ callous disregard for human rights and the cruel measures they are prepared to take to punish members of the Howeitat tribe for legitimately protesting against forced eviction from their homes,” Abdullah Aljuraywi of ALQST said.
The kingdom is well known for its brutal track record of executions. In one of the largest mass executions in Saudi Arabia since 1980, 81 people were killed in March of last year on charges of alleged terrorism-related activities, most of whom were a part of Saudi’s Shia minority.