Saudi Arabian King Salman arrives in NEOM for rest, despite controversy over megacity

Saudi Arabian King Salman arrives in NEOM for rest, despite controversy over megacity
The Saudi King arrived in the NEOM economic zone for 'rest and relaxation,' as killed, evicted tribes call for an end of the megacity development.
3 min read
13 August, 2020
King Salman was released from hospital at the end of July [Getty]

Saudi Arabia King Salman bin Abdulaziz arrived in the NEOM economic zone for “rest and relaxation”, according to state news agency SPA, as the cross-border megacity continues its controversial track to development.

Videos of the 84-year-old king appeared on Saudi state television; In one clip the king, who was released from hospital on 30 July following gall bladder surgery, is seen standing on escalator that takes him from a plane to a car.

Then, in another clip he walked into the building, with a cane.

NEOM city, a $500 billion enterprise by Saudi Arabia, is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plans to wean the kingdom away from its reliance on oil revenues.

Outlined in his Vision 2030 plan to attract foreign investment, NEOM will be powered by wind and solar energy, however the city has already been tainted by the killing of a Saudi tribal activist earlier this year, who refused to leave his home to make way for the city’s construction.

Earlier this year a compensation plan released by Saudi Arabia for NEOM residents evicted from their homes was rejected by Saudi citizens.

While construction is still underway, thousands of locals and tribal families who had lived in the region for centuries were forcibly evicted from their homes. In April, Saudi activist Abdul-Rahman al-Howeiti of the Howeitat tribe was killed by Saudi while resisting eviction.

The slain activist's sister, Alya Alhwaiti, has launched a social media using the hashtag #JusticeforNeomVictims seeking to bring light to rights violations carried out in order to see MbS' NEOM project come to fruition.

She is also calling for an international and independent investigation into forced evictions of locals carried out by Saudi authorities to push through NEOM.

Alya Alhuwaiti's campaign is now serving as the sole local voice of opposition to the offered compensations. Saudi media offers no space for criticism of MbS' plans.

Members of the local Huwaiti tribe have joined in saying compensation is not an option for those forcibly removed.

"Whoever evicts you from your home because of an investment project, and then comes to you while you're away [from home] and puts money in your hand - regardless of the amount - is he honouring you or insulting you?" Shadle Abou Takika al-Huwaiti wrote on Twitter at the time.

Read more: Western firms complicit in the human cost of Saudi Arabia's dystopian Neom megacity

Saudi Arabia is also offering extremely low prices as compensation, Shadle al-Huwaiti suggested.

"Our land... close to the port of Khraibeh has palm trees that are 120 years old. Its market value is in the dozens of millions," Shadle Al-Huwaiti said.

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