Dominic Raab urged to boycott G20 over Saudi Arabia's bid to evict Bedouin tribe from homeland

James Rothwell
·3 min read
Mohammad bin Salman, the Crown Prince, wants to build a futuristic city on the land where the tribe lives - AP
Mohammad bin Salman, the Crown Prince, wants to build a futuristic city on the land where the tribe lives - AP

Dominic Raab is facing calls to boycott the G20 summit in Saudi Arabia over the Kingdom's attempts to drive a Bedouin tribe from their homeland to make way for a futuristic "megacity". 

In a letter to the foreign secretary, British lawyers representing the tribe said Mr Raab had a “moral imperative” to stand up for the Howeitat tribe, which has inhabited northwestern Saudi Arabia for hundreds of years but is now being ordered to leave the area. 

“The Howeitat Tribe are the victims of ongoing serious human rights violations by the Saudi Arabian government," wrote Rodney Dixon QC, in a letter seen by the Telegraph. 

"[They] are now in the process of being forcibly removed from their homeland by the Saudi Arabian authorities."

The tribe is being cleared from the area so that construction can begin on Neom, a $500bn (£377bn) city of skyscrapers, self-driving cars and robot dinosaurs next to the Red Sea. 

The project is the brainchild of Mohammad bin Salman, the Crown Prince and de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, and the centrepiece of his Vision 2030 business reforms. 

Artist's impression of Neom city, the brainchild of Mohammad bin Salman - KCRW
Artist's impression of Neom city, the brainchild of Mohammad bin Salman - KCRW

According to some reports, the tribesmen have already been offered compensation by the Saudi authorities for leaving the area. The Telegraph has approached the Kingdom for comment. 

Mr Dixon has sent a similar letter to the leaders of the European Commission and European Council in Brussels, urging them to adopt the same stance. 

The European-Saudi Organisation for Human Rights is also lobbying the UN to adopt a tougher stance on the Crown Prince’s Neom project to prevent further escalations. 

It came as exiled Saudi activists claimed that some 20 members of the Howeitat tribe had been rounded up and arrested by security forces, in what they said was an attempt to intimidate them. 

“They were kidnapped one by one,” said Alya Abutayah, a London-based activist and Howeitat tribe member. “Every day someone is expecting someone from their family to be kidnapped...we are urging people not to invest in this project, which is built on the blood of the Howeitat.”

Abdul-Rahim Howeiti was shot dead by Saudi security forces after refusing to leave his home - Newsflash
Abdul-Rahim Howeiti was shot dead by Saudi security forces after refusing to leave his home - Newsflash

She was referring to the killing of tribesman Abdul Rahim al-Howeiti, who was shot dead by Saudi security forces in April after refusing to leave his home on land earmarked for Neom’s construction. 

Britain is already under pressure to boycott the Riyadh summit due to Saudi Arabia’s record on human rights, including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the detainment of Saudi women’s right activist Loujain al-Hathloul and the Kingdom’s military campaign against Houthi rebels in in Yemen. 

The Guardian reported this week that Saudi Arabia was mulling clemency for Ms al-Hathloul before the summit takes place, though her relatives protest that she has been arbitrarily detained and has not been convicted. 

The Crown Prince has been accused by the CIA of personally ordering the killing of Khashoggi, though he vehemently denies this and has described the murder as a “heinous crime.”

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We continue to raise human rights issues, including reports of evictions, with the Saudi authorities.

"The G20 summit will be a critical moment for the UK to help lead the global push for a sustainable recovery from coronavirus."

Saudi Arabia has said Neom city will create many job opportunities for those who currently live in the area, and that housing and land plots will be made available to those who are eligible.