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Saudi demolition plan in Jeddah violates human rights, discriminates against foreign nationals

A screenshot from online footage shows the wide-scale destruction of entire neighborhoods of Saudi Arabia’s southern city of Jeddah. (Photo via Twitter)

International human rights organizations have criticized Saudi authorities for their forced evictions and demolitions in the strategic Red Sea port city of Jeddah, saying that the plans discriminate against foreign nationals and violate international human rights standards.

According to the rights groups, Saudi officials have evicted hundreds of thousands of residents from their homes in the city between the end of 2021 and the start of 2022, as part of the latest ambitious project of the kingdom’s Crown Prince and defacto ruler Mohammed bin Salman, known as Vision 2030.

A review of municipality documents has found that more than 558,000 residents were affected as a result.

While a compensation scheme was announced by local authorities, the plan excluded foreign nationals who make up 47 percent of those evicted.

According to the London-based rights group ALQST, an independent non-governmental organization advocating human rights in Saudi Arabia, evicted residents had been living in their homes for up to 60 years.

Some were driven out when their power and water were cut off, or threatened with jail for disobeying an eviction order, it added.

A resident of Jeddah’s southern neighborhood of Galil, which saw the first demolitions last October, said security forces had confiscated mobile phones to prevent footage from getting out.

“We were suddenly expelled from our homes overnight and without warning,” said the man, who gave his name as Fahd.

Saudi officials have asserted that the kingdom will compensate families for their losses and announced in February that the government would complete 5,000 replacement housing units by the end of the year.

But residents, including those evicted early on, said they had so far received nothing and that there was no clear way to assess the value of their destroyed homes.

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