Saudi doctor Abdullah is finalizing the payment of a personal loan he took out to build a house on his land, although bulldozers have demolished his dream home in Jeddah as part of a plan to develop the coastal city, which says it changed his life. in hell”.
The demolition of his home came as part of a project worth 75 billion rials ($ 20 billion) involving demolition and construction that affects about half a million people in Saudi Arabia’s second largest city, provoking outrage that erupts in social media. , a rare phenomenon in the Kingdom.
The Saudi government promised to compensate the families and announced last February that it would complete the construction of 5,000 alternative housing units by the end of the year.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the Kingdom, launched the “Development of the center of Jeddah” project with the aim of getting rid of “slums”, including the construction of an opera house, a sports stadium and a museum in the city overlooking the Red Sea.
The streets of Jeddah, in the west of the kingdom, are filled with twisted concrete and metal as thousands of houses are destroyed. Some residents accused the government of destroying working-class neighborhoods of dozens of nationalities in a city considered largely open in the conservative country.
“We have become foreigners in our city. We feel suffering and grief,” Dr. Abdullah, a 45-year-old father, told AFP.
Abdullah, who asked not to be identified for fear of persecution by authorities, took out a personal bank loan in 2007 for 30 years in exchange for mortgaging a plot of land he owned and used the money to build a house in the Nazla neighborhood (south ). to pay about 1500 rials ($ 400) a month for thirty years.
Abdullah, who was to rent a house, added: “What happened is the biggest shock in my life. The situation is tragic like hell and can not be described.”
The demolition stopped during the month of Ramadan, which ends in early May.
Officials in Jeddah did not respond to VET requests for comment on the project.
blows and blows
Jeddah, which is known as the “gate of Mecca”, as it includes an airport for pilgrims going to the holy city for Muslims, about 100 km away, is a vital tourist center where restaurants are spread by the sea. In recent months, he has also hosted a film festival and a Formula 1 race.
Even before the crown prince launched a social openness campaign to soften the image of his country’s hard line, the city enjoyed some freedom that helped describe it as “different”.
Dozens of neighborhoods that were removed contained a mix of Saudis, foreigners from other Arab and Asian countries.
The human rights organization ALQST stated that some families have been living in their homes for more than 60 years. She explained that some people were forced to leave their homes after water and electricity services were cut off, or threatened with imprisonment.
The “Ghalil” neighborhood in southern Jeddah witnessed the first demolition last October. The Saudi employee, Fahd, says security forces have confiscated residents’ mobile phones to avoid filming the eviction that took place overnight.
“We were suddenly evicted from our homes overnight and without warning,” he says.
On Twitter, many users posted on Twitter under the hashtag #HaddadJeddah, expressing their anger.
The Saudi activist, Ali Al-Ahmad, led an electronic campaign to file complaints from residents affected by the demolition, which he described as a harsh method of “hitting and hitting”.
Al-Ahmad, who is also a researcher at the Center for Gulf Affairs in Washington, D.C., says ‘relocated to a new location. “
The devastation and displacement of the population caused an increase in the prices of renting houses in general in Jeddah, as well as transportation services, which exacerbated the suffering of the affected and the untouched, according to residents.
“The Day of Judgment”
In one of the neighborhoods covered by the project, some buildings were completely destroyed, while the words “evacuation” were written in red on the walls of many buildings that were still standing.
Authorities set up a board asking residents to vacate their properties and take their personal belongings and upload ownership documents to a website to receive compensation.
Three of those affected said they received no compensation and indicated that there was no “clear mechanism to assess the value” of their homes, while Fahd claimed that “months passed and I did not receive compensation for my home. From one homeowner to one tenant who is struggling to pay his rent. “
Despite the complaints, officials say the project will develop the city with the construction of 17,000 modern housing units while preserving the identity of Jeddah.
The Jeddah provincial official said recently that the demolition targeted neighborhoods that lacked infrastructure facilities and that ambulances and firefighters could not reach them, describing some of them as a “crime den”.
But many residents reject what they consider a “distortion” of the image of their neighborhoods, including the Saudi, a Turk whose family has lived for decades in a house in the Al-Harazat neighborhood in eastern Jeddah.
“My family and I live in my grandfather’s house,” he told AFP. “My father was born there, and so are my children. It’s like a life, not just a home.”
Turki, a father of four, finally returned to his home to find him wrecked. “The sound of demolition is everywhere. The ruins are everywhere. It feels like Resurrection Day,” he says.