In the last two days, a renewed violent military campaign in Awamiyah, led by the Saudi Special security forces who are linked to the ministry of interior, has drastically intensified resulting in Awamiyah becoming a war zone.
The Awamiyah siege, which has been ongoing for 79 days, has devastated the area and spread terror amongst residents. This new terror campaign has killed at least 8 civilians, led to widespread demolition reducing some areas to rubble, led closures of roads and exit routes and the targeting of important infrastructure (particularly phone networks and electricity). All of this points towards the intention of the Saudi forces to put Awamiyah under lock down.
Awamiyah, which is located in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia, which has been subject to a military campaign by Saudi forces since the 10th May 2017. Saudi Arabia sought to quantify its actions, stating that the demolition of a neighbourhood called Al-Mosawarah was in the name of development and security, despite UN experts calling upon the Saudi authorities to halt the demolition of this important cultural and heritage site. Regardless of this, the demolition and destruction of the Al-Mosawarah neighbourhood has continued and the violent offensive has expanded to other parts of Awamiyah.
Saudi Forces in Awamiyah
Late on Tuesday night, Saudi forces were seen entering Awamiyah in large green tank style vehicles known as ‘Gurkha RPVs’ which are believed to be linked to the Ministry of interior. After entering these vehicles blocked off entire areas. Unlike previous times where forces have entered Awamiyah, armed Saudi forces left their tanks and came out of their vehicle and were walking on the streets, where they were reported to have been arbitrarily shooting.
In one scene, they had forced a group of Asian immigrant workers to strip, including their underwear and lie on the ground.
Videos shared on social media also show Saudi troops firing heavy artillery and cheering as they shoot, as though it was all some sort of video game.
Local activists documented disturbing photos of deadly shells and bullets that had littered the ground in the wake of the Saudi forces presence.
Activist have also documented the use of a new type of weapons which had not been previously used against Awamiyah, in particular the use of cannons, with several reported incidents in which these cannons have been used to target properties and homes which are situated far from Al-Mosawarah.
The Saudi forces also entered buildings called ‘Amaarat Al-Aarf’, in the North Awamiyah, very far from Al-Mosawarah. Where they raided and looted the apartments. Following this, they took away all the men residing in those apartments.
This morning (28th July) videos emerged of an exodus of foreign workers from Shukur Allah (northern Awamiyah) after the area had the electricity cut, was in lock down. The workers feared for their safety after hearing of the deaths of several fireign workers jn Awamiyah in past months due to the siege. Residents and families have also begun leavingthe area. This will leave many displaced.
Scenes this morning as residents of Awamiyah have begun to leave. Activist report that many of them are holding up white flags from their cars to show they are civilians and signal to Saudi forces not to arbitrarily shoot.
killings have taken place during this fresh violent campaign. Amongst those named are Awamiyah residents: Mohsen Al-Ajami who was shot near his home after leaving his car, Mohammed AbdulAziz Al-Faraj who was left on the pavement after being fired at with live rounds, Hussein Abu Abdullah who was left charred to death, after Saudi forces set his car alight and Hussein Al-Zaher who was assassinated by snipers whilst in his car and Hussain Al-Gazhwi.
Three immigrant workers were also killed, although their exact identifies are yet to be verified.
Unexplained Military movements
In the last week, residents noticed some strange and unexplained movement of Saudi military Saudi forces, who had congregated and set up base in a nearby sports stadium called ‘Medinat Nayef al Riyadhiyah’ (sports city). The number of troops were extremely large in number, and the sudden transfer of troops to this area remained unexplained. Residents feared the worse.
At the same time, rumours began to circulate via message on Whatsapp/ Telegram/ Twitter that the national guard was coming to Awamiyah. The source of the messages is not clear, but these messages became widely circulated amongst the messages of Awamiyah, generating fear and suspicion. Within the message, the military movements were likened to be Reminiscent of revolution of 1979 in Awamiyah, in which the national guard at the time had crushed the protests movement in the area. The message also issued a warning, advising people to leave, as Awamiyah was about to be cut off from the world.
Awamiyah: A symbol of resistance
Awamiyah, the hometown of social justice activist, Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr, has long been regarded a symbol of resistance within the kingdom to the oppressive policies of the house of Al-Saud. The dissent in the Eastern Province in general traces back to the Saudi authorities sectarian discrimination of the Shia and marginalization of both an economic and political nature.
What will be the outcome of this siege? A mass exodus of its residents? Wiping Awamiyah off the map? Let us not be silent observers.