The 'martyr of Neom' victim of the grandeur of Mohammad bin Salman

In the northwest desert, on the Red Sea, the crown prince wants to build a megacity 30 times the size of New York. FAs a fee zone, it would allow for the consumption of alcohol and travel on flying taxis. The opposition of 20 thousand villagers, who would be expropriated. The hero of the anti-expropriation fight killed by the security forces. Covid-19 and oil crisis threaten the project.

Riyadh (AsiaNews) - Mohammad bin Salman's (Mbs) dreams of greatness have come up against the stubborn opposition of a tribe from the region of Neom, in the north-west of the kingdom, where the Saudi crown prince wants to build a high-tech megacity 30 times bigger than New York.

Part of the development plan called "Vision 2030", the project involves the expulsion of over 20,000 people in the area, mostly members of Bedouin tribes who have promised battle.

For compensation, all the inhabitants received orders to abandon their lands in this mostly desert area to make room for the future Neom. A $ 500 billion project earmarked by MBS, which must continue despite the new coronavirus pandemic which causes further problems with a view to relocating people.

According to plans, the mega-project is expected to be completed within the next five years. Vast at 30 times the "big apple" area, the city has been conceptualized as a "green and ultra-modern megalopolis". Inside, flying taxis will circulate, the teachers will be replaced by holograms and the temperature will be regulated by a cloud-controlled engagement system that will allow rain at regular intervals.

As a new Dubai, it will boast an extraterritorial status that does not provide for the application of Sharia, Islamic law: inhabitants will be able to dress at will and consume alcohol, a practice prohibited in the Wahhabi kingdom. However, the project is encountering strong resistance among the local population who found their voice in who has now been renamed "the martyr of Neom", for having lost his life in this fight against the megalopolis.

In a video published on Twitter on April 12, and which now takes on the proportions of a spiritual testament, Abdel Rahim Al-Huwaïti, from the village of Al-Khurayba on the Red Sea coast, from the roof of his home, lashes out against the project of annihilation of a area and its population. A member of the Howeïtat tribe, he fought not to be sacrificed on the altar of development and "pharaonic" plans of the Saudi crown prince.

"This is state terrorism" accuses the man, who says he is against "the forced displacement of people. I don't want to leave. I don't want compensation, I just want to stay in my home." He spared no criticism and accusations, in a nation where dissent - despite superficial openings - is repressed by force.

"I would not be surprised - he concludes in a prophetic tone - if they come to take me to kill me, here in my home, hiding weapons so they can then accuse me of being a terrorist ... but this is my home and I will protect it".

The following day the Al-Khurayba died at the hands of the security forces who came to arrest him. Relatives and pro-human rights activists speak of extra-judicial murder. The inhabitants of the area, emphasizes a Saudi activist in exile speaking to Le Monde, are not fully supportive of the development projects but do not admit that there is coercion to “require them to leave".

In reality, the project is still in its infancy, and more than the inhabitants, the two global crises taking place are threatening its realization: the health crisis, triggered by the new coronavirus pandemic, and the oil crisis that is shaking the upper echelons of the Saudi kingdom. With barrel prices plummeting and a global recession on the horizon, MBS will have to cut public spending and suspend or slow down many projects, not least the one that is shaking the Howeïtats.