Awamiya: The Saudi Arabian Town Under Siege
By FAM message board poster CDB
In a country known throughout the world for its oil, camels, and illegal street racing, Saudi Arabia is viewed as a critical US ally in the Middle East. Its vast wealth allows it to enjoy internal stability and project its influence throughout the region. Ruled by an absolute monarchy, the government’s oppressive laws and culture mean injustices run rampant through the country. For instance, women are still not permitted to drive. In fact, women cast their votes in local elections for the first time ever in 2015. Unemployment in the kingdom hovers around 11% and, by the way, they’ve been conducting air strikes in the neighboring country of Yemen for nearly 3 years since its government collapsed.
A country such as this is also highly sectarian by nature given that the royal family governs according to its Sunni Muslim principles. Sunni Muslims account for nearly 90% of the population whereas Shiite Muslims make up the remaining 10%. The Shiite population is located in the Eastern Province of the country where the bulk of the kingdom’s oil reserves are. It is in this province where an unheard-of town has been laid siege to by the Saudi Arabian government.
Awamiya, a place that became a popular spot for Shiite protesters against the government during the Arab Spring in 2011, has had its power and other amenities sporadically cut since May 2017. Government security forces using armored vehicles have accompanied bulldozers to raze entire neighborhoods. Hundreds, probably thousands, of civilians have been forcibly displaced by the violence taking place in the area.
(Below are satellite pictures showing the Almosara neighborhood in February 2017 and July 2017.)
Because most media outlets in the country are owned or controlled by the state, word of these atrocities has been hard to get out, often having to rely on witness reports from the local population.
The Saudi Arabian government says this is an effort to modernize the area and to prevent terrorists from attacking security forces, however locals see it as another act of discrimination and punishment for the town’s acceptance of those who oppose the Saudi government.
As information slowly trickles out, the extent of the destruction becomes apparent.
In May 2017, United Nations human rights monitors condemned the Saudi Arabian government, however no official statement has been made by the UN since the demolitions started. The United States has not made any comments on Awamiya either. Without any repercussions as a result of these actions, the Saudi government will continue to marginalize their minority population which in turn will fuel sectarian tensions elsewhere throughout the Muslim world.