Last week we reported on the Saudi regime’s brutal crackdown against its own citizens in the largely Shia town of Awamiya in the country’s East. We described the weeks long siege and official Saudi policy of ‘relocation’ of Shia residents as in truth a targeted cleansing of religious minorities, considered by the Wahhabi Sunni state authorities as heretics and apostates:
Activists describe it as a concealed sectarian-based cleansing of the Shia population, which has been historically persecuted by the Sunni Wahhabi state. Regional news outlets have published footage which they say reveals active sectarian anti-Shia cleansing on the part of Saudi forces currently underway.
Saudi state media has now confirmed completion of its campaign to drive all pockets of Shia resistance out of Awamiya and is currently maintaining a heavy troop presence in the town. It is unclear how many local Shia militants were engaged in the fighting, but it appears the military brought its full weight to bear against the contested Almosara neighborhood which forms Awamiya’s walled ‘old city’ section. As we reported, the Saudi military utilized:
…air power, heavy artillery, RPGs, snipers and armored assault vehicles in the area. Earlier this year the Saudi regime announced plans to demolish the neighborhood and hand it over to private developers in a kind of Saudi version of “eminent domain”; however, the presence of Shia militants hiding amidst its narrow roads and concealed alleyways appears the be the real motive for razing the district.
While Saudi Arabia is framing its actions in terms of necessary counter-terrorism police action, other regional media outlets and local activists now report over 500 homes flattened in Almosara by military bombardment and subsequent bulldozers that entered the town, with estimates of 8,000 families having fled the area. Evacuation notices were also issued to Shia residents in the area by the Albarahim private property developer, and stamped by the government’s National Joint Counterterrorism Command (NJCC), which was formed in 2003.
Meanwhile, The Independent (UK) reported the death of a three-year-old boy who was shot by Saudi forces as his family merely drove their car near a protest earlier this summer. The boy succumbed to his wounds while in a local intensive care unit on Wednesday.
— Walid (@walid970721) August 10, 2017
So it appears there is a two-fold motive for the Saudi state’s aggressive military takeover: forcibly change the Shia demographic – a form of religiously motivated genocide, while at the same time claiming the area is needed for “property development” in a land grab that is sure to enrich developers close to the Saudi royal family. None of this, however, is taking place in secret or completely hidden from public view – video footage of armor enclosed government bulldozers operating in Almosara leveling what appears to be an entire city block amidst gunfire has spread widely on the internet, which we featured in our initial report of the siege.
Saudi soldiers further appear to be uploading photos and videos of themselves celebrating their entry into and current occupation of the town. Some footage, which was quickly picked up in Arabic media, shows Saudi elite troops desecrating a Shia mosque while repeating sectarian slogans commonly used among ISIS terrorists.
In one of the videos, a Saudi soldier enters the historic Al-Fotya mosque in Awamiya, sacred to Shias, while declaring, “These are the Shia’s Hussainiyat, the Rafidi’s (rejectionists), the sons of dogs, thank you Allah, thank you Allah…The monster forces.” Rejectionist is a derogatory term for Shia Muslims favored by Wahhabis. It is the most common slur bused by ISIS when referencing Shias.
The Washington D.C. based Institute For Gulf Affairs has translated the brief video:
A 2009 Human Rights Watch report acknowledged that Shias “face systematic discrimination in religion, education, justice, and employment” in Saudi Arabia. This is especially true in the military and government ministries. Saudi special forces, which have reportedly spearheaded the military assault on Awamiya, are put through Wahhabi religious instruction and ban all Shia from their ranks.
Photos out of Awamiya also being widely circulated show Saudi special forces (“SSF” – which is printed on the soldiers’ body armor vests) desecrating a Shia shrine while standing atop an image of the revered slain Shiite preacher, Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr, who was controversially executed early this year after his arrest for being a fierce critic of the Saudi monarchy.
Al Masdar News featured the photo set and reported: “The Saudi regime forces have recently taken to social media to brag about the Awamiya siege that has displaced thousands of civilians and killed several other residents.”
To see what developers under the aegis of the government have planned for the area, one need look no further that Saudi state media. Al-Arabiya, a Saudi government funded regional news channel which operates out of Dubai, published plans for Saudi “redevelopment” of the now utterly destroyed ancient walled quarter of Awamiya.
The visual concept plans were issued at a Wednesday press conference hosted by a government housing and development ministry. The Saudi Undersecretary for Construction and Projects, Essam Al Mulla,
presented the government’s vision, which he called “a quantum leap in urban development”.
Saudi government supplied visual concept for Awamiya development, currently being occupied by the military after its Shia residents were forced out, with many of them reported killed and their homes and historic neighborhoods demolished. State owned Al-Arabiya English captioned this image as follows: “The development project for Awamiya city in north eastern Saudi Arabia.”
State owned Al-Arabiya’s caption reads: “The development project for Awamiya city in north eastern Saudi Arabia.”
Should the project come to completion it is uncertain who will inhabit the newly developed property. What is certain is that activists and displaced residents say it is part of a long term plan to purge the country’s East of its ancient Shia heartland – something even the United Nations Human Rights Commission has taken note of. Saudi Arabia claims that Iran and other pro-Shia entities purposefully stoke unrest in the province. With the complete takeover and military occupation of restive Awamiya amidst international media silence, the plans seem to be making progress. It appears the project would run at least in the hundreds of millions of dollars – possibly more given the potential for an active Shia insurgency vowing to oppose the obliteration of the area’s religious heritage.
Saudi Arabia’s ability to engage in overt sectarian cleansing of its Eastern province with complete impunity is made glaringly evident by the fact that its state-run media can openly post Orwellian “urban development” plans for a zone now being flattened by government bulldozers accompanied by sectarian sloganizing special forces troops.
Meanwhile, there’s not a peep from Western capitals accustomed to lecturing the world on the supposedly unique evils of Putin, Assad, or Kim Jong Un.