Publication date: 16/02/2023

"The Dark Side of Neom: Expropriation, expulsion and prosecution of the region’s inhabitants" details the vicious campaign against members of the Huwaitat tribe who objected to their forcible eviction in 2020 for construction of a futuristic megacity, Neom. 


Executive summary 

Neom, the futuristic megacity being built on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast, is the flagship project of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030, an ambitious programme to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy and reduce its dependence on oil revenues. The Saudi authorities are seeking billions of dollars in foreign investment and technical expertise in order to develop Neom, yet in getting started on the project they have already committed a wide range of serious human rights abuses of which all potential partners, investors and consultants should be aware.

ALQST has made a detailed investigation into these violations, based on first-hand testimonies from victims and witnesses as well as open-source data. In this report, it presents its findings and urges businesses involved, or thinking of becoming involved, to look closely into their corporate responsibilities and avoid becoming complicit in the Saudi authorities’ human rights abuses.

Despite official claims to the contrary, the area earmarked for the Neom project, totalling 26,500 km2, is not unpopulated land – it has been inhabited for centuries, primarily by members of the Huwaitat tribe. In order to proceed with the construction of Neom, the Saudi authorities have committed a wide range of serious human rights abuses. ALQST’s investigation has concluded that to realise this project, Saudi authorities have illegally displaced local tribes without adequate compensation or offering alternative housing, and violently cracked down on members of the tribe who peacefully opposed or resisted eviction. Since the notorious killing of local resident Abdul Rahim al-Huwaiti in a raid  by special forces on his home in 2020, ALQST has documented the arbitrary arrests and unfair trials of other members of the tribe, several of whom have recently been sentenced to lengthy prison terms or even execution.

Much of the information in this report is new, and paints a deeply disturbing picture of the ongoing prosecution and punishment of dozens of members of the Huwaitat tribe for their peaceful opposition. ALQST has been able to verify the sentencing of 14 members of the tribe to date, including one woman, to prison terms of between 15 and 50 years. At least three more have been sentenced to death for peacefully resisting the forcible displacement of their tribe and speaking out against the injustices inflicted on them by the Saudi authorities.

Furthermore, the issue of illegal land seizures and forced displacement go well beyond the Neom megacity project. These are longstanding practices of the Saudi authorities, and we are seeing similar expropriations, with accompanying human rights violations, taking place elsewhere in the kingdom, notably in Jeddah, within the framework of Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030. 

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