Saudi Arabia. Massive demolitions and forced evictions marred by violations and discrimination

An ongoing large-scale demolition and eviction plan, part of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s strategy to achieve Vision 2030, which affects half a million people in more than 60 neighborhoods in the coastal city of Jeddah violates international human rights standards and discriminates against foreign nationals, Amnesty International said today, calling on authorities to end forced evictions.

According to the organization’s review of a document from the Jeddah municipality, with a timeline of development plans dating back to 2019, the demolitions affect more than 558,000 residents. Demolitions began in October 2021 and have continued intermittently since then.

The Saudi Gazette announced on January 31, 2022 a compensation scheme for citizens excluding foreign nationals who represent 47% of those expelled. According to the authorities, the value of the compensation will only be assessed after the demolition of the buildings.

“Beneath the progressive and glitzy image that Saudi Arabia is trying to present to the world, hide horrific stories of abuse and violations. The world will not be fooled by a fake fanfare. A document from the Municipality of Jeddah shows that the plans for the project were finalized almost three years ago, but the Saudi authorities have failed to engage in a meaningful process of consultation with residents, nor to give sufficient notice, announce the amount of compensation and provided it to residents before the demolitions,” said Diana Semaan, Amnesty International’s Acting Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“The authorities are building this project at all costs for the inhabitants of the region. Not only did they brutally evict residents from their homes without giving them enough time or compensation to find alternative accommodation, but they also discriminated against hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals by excluding them from the compensation scheme.

Amnesty International interviewed one resident, three activists and three journalists with knowledge of the situation on the ground, two of whom were in Jeddah between February 2022 and May 2022. The organization also verified satellite images showing at least 20 Jeddah neighborhoods demolished between October 2021 and May 2022, and 13 videos showing the destruction of buildings in several neighborhoods.

In April 2022, Amnesty International wrote to the Saudi Human Rights Commission raising questions and concerns about demolition and due process requirements in the context of the evictions, but did not receive a response.

Beneath the progressive and glitzy image that Saudi Arabia tries to portray to the world lie horrific stories of abuses and violations.

Diana Semaan, Amnesty International

According to a public official document reviewed by Amnesty International, residents were given notice ranging from 24 hours in one neighborhood to one to six weeks in others. For example, in Al Ghaleel, one of the neighborhoods affected, electricity was cut off a day after residents saw “evacuate” painted on their buildings. In other neighborhoods, eviction and demolition schedules were posted on billboards or through state-aligned media.

“I only learned of the eviction on January 22 through spray paint on our building and a paper posted on the ground floor stating that we had to leave before the end of the month. I have never seen or spoken to representatives of the municipality or the government. said a foreign national who had lived in one of the neighborhoods for three years before being forced to leave in February 2022.

In accordance with the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-Related Evictions and Displacement, authorities should provide compensation and resettlement to all affected without discrimination, ensuring that no one is left homeless at following an eviction, including citizens and non-residents. citizens, those with or without title deeds, and tenants. In addition, they must involve all affected persons, provide appropriate notice, publish information in advance, and give all affected residents a reasonable period of time to publicly review or object to the proposed plan, including protection plans. vulnerable groups.

Stigmatized and bullied

State-aligned media outlets have unleashed a far-reaching stigmatizing narrative about people living in affected areas, claiming the majority of people in some areas are undocumented and neighborhoods are “filled with disease, crime , drugs and theft” as the inhabitants are “violators of the residence and work regime.

A community activist told Amnesty International: “Entire communities are being destroyed. What will happen to the most vulnerable? Migrants with or without papers cannot afford to access alternative accommodation in the most expensive areas. Those without papers are labeled as criminals. There is no empathy for them.

There is a climate of fear around sharing information and reporting violations in the deportation process. According to an Amnesty International source who is in direct contact with the people of Jeddah, residents fear reprisals from the authorities if they claim their rights and are therefore afraid to speak out. A resident said he feared he would suffer the same fate as Abdul Raheem al-Huwaiti, who was killed by security forces in April 2020 after leading community organizing against land acquisitions linked to NEOM, a megacity project under construction in northern Tabuk province. – west of Saudi Arabia.

Many people using pseudonyms have taken to Twitter to protest against the destruction of their neighborhoods and homes, as well as the difficulties they face in finding affordable alternative housing. They are also protesting against the high cost of living and accommodation for evictees, the delay in compensation and the increase in prices for rent and relocation services in Jeddah.

Background

In 2017, Saudi Arabia launched Vision 2030, a plan to diversify the economy and create more opportunities for women and young people.

The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia launched the Central Jeddah Project in December 2021, a SR75 billion (about $20 billion) project to develop 5.7 million square meters of land. The first demolitions related to this project began in October 2021, followed by another in January 2022, when videos of the destruction began to surface on social media.

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