Neom, two Howeitat tribesmen sentenced to 50 years for protesting against land grab

In addition to prison, Abdulilah al-Howeiti and Abdullah Dukhail al-Howeiti will not be allowed to expatriate for another 50 years. They are guilty of opposing the mega-development project wanted by bin Salman. Activists denounce the escalation of the use of force and imprisonment for those who protest or criticize. A five-billion moon-shaped resort is about to be built in Dubai.


Riyadh (AsiaNews) - The grand development plans of the Gulf monarchies, from Saudi Arabia to the United Arab Emirates, which these days are announcing a project that will bring none other than the moon to Dubai's skyline, conceal abuses, violations and exploitation. And even imprisonment for those who try to oppose ideals of grandeur in an attempt to defend parts of lands, fields and homes that encapsulate decades of personal and family history. As happened in recent days in the Wahhabi kingdom, where two men were sentenced to 50 years in jail for rejecting the authorities' relocation plan as part of the mega-project for the futuristic city of Neom

According to reports by the U.K.-based activist movement Alqst, which has been at the forefront of exposing abuses and violations in the country, two Howeitat tribesmen received the harsh sentence for protesting forced dispossession and displacement. In order to make way for Neom, a Red Sea metropolis built from scratch with a 500-billion-euro investment, it was necessary to "kick out" tribals and families who had always lived in the area from their lands. 

Support for family-sponsored protests and opposition to Riyadh's plans will thus cost Abdulilah al-Howeiti and Abdullah Dukhail al-Howeiti, both originally from the northwestern province of Tabuk, 50 years in jail and another 50 years of a ban on travel. The criminal appeals court issued the ruling, in the latest in a long series of harsh verdicts against those who express dissent, even peaceful dissent, toward the ruling leadership. "It is part of a trend," Lina al-Hathloul, Alqst's head of communications, stressed to Middle East Eye, "that is entirely new. And one that spares no one. I believe that anyone who is arrested from now on will receive a very harsh sentence." 

Displaced tribes reportedly received compensation ranging from around 27 thousand to 260 thousand euros, however, according to some sources, residents of the Tabuk area received around 3 thousand euros for expropriated property, houses and land. In addition, the Howeitat tribes report an escalation in the pressure implemented by the Saudi authorities to have them removed, which has also resulted in the unannounced cutting off of water and electricity supplies, as well as continuous aerial surveillance using drones. The two convicts are part of a group of 150 people who ended up in jail for opposing the Neom project, which was strongly advocated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as part of "Vision 2030." 

Meanwhile, from Dubai comes the announcement of a five-billion-euro project that will lead to the construction of a resort renamed "Moon" (see second photo) in honor of Earth's satellite. The Arabian Business magazine is speaking about it, according to which within 48 months a luxurious complex in the shape of the moon will rise in the famous Emirati resort, with an overall height of 224 meters. A further "addition" to the already "futuristic" skyline of the city, which intends to push even harder on tourism by aiming to double visitors in the coming years. The site will be surrounded by a so-called "moon colony" capable of accommodating up to 2.5 million people a year. The goal is to provide an experience comparable to "space tourism, but at prices deemed affordable."