The British newspaper “the Independent” revealed several new details about the situation in the Al-Awamiyah town in the eastern region of Saudi Arabia.
The town has been under full siege by the Saudi Security Forces for three months, according to the report. Saudi security forces even even cut off electricity and water lines to the town.
Saudi security forces had stormed Al-Awamiyah after the Saudi government decided on May 10 to evacuate the residents of the town and to demolish the old part of it – Al-Moussawara district – under the pretext of developing the town.
The Saudi decision is believed to be a punishment for the town’s residents, who belong to the Shiite sect. Al-Awamiya is home for 30,000 Saudi Shiites. Al-Awamiya is also a birthplace of Shiite Imam Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who had been leading widespread protests in Al-Awamiya town and the eastern region of Saudi Arabia against the Saudi government and called for reforms since 2011 before the Saudi authorities executed him on January 2, 2016.
The Saudi authorities have already demolished large parts of Al-Awamiyah. Only 3000-5000 civilians remain in the town. Some of them are anti-government armed activist, according to the Independent report.
25 people, including at least 12 civilians, have been killed since Saudi security forces began its attack on the town. Security forces have deployed snipers and armored vehicles in the town, which turned into a battlefield, according to the report.
“I was a peaceful protester, most of us in Awamiyah were, until the government decided to list us as wanted terrorists. All we did was maintain calls for reform. Because we were not afraid of the regime, they targeted the whole city,” an anti-government armed activist told the Independent.
“We will kill your father and throw his head between your legs,” Saudi forces allegedly told his daughter after raiding his home in Al-Awamiyah.
“We had no choice. Defending our lives and our women is a duty. Houses have been destroyed by bombs, heavy shooting, RPGs… everyone is a target,” the activist added.
The number of Shiites in Saudi Arabia is 2.25 million that makes up 15% of the Saudi population. Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Region is the heartland of the Saudi Shiites. The Saudi Shiites suffer from the Saudi government’s persecution because Saudi Arabia’s key ideology is Wahhabism which is considered an anti-Shiite ideology.
When the Arab Spring started, the Saudi Shiites began demanding their rights, and the Saudi authorities responded wiith tougher measures against the country’s minority. However, Saudi Shiites have little ties to Iran. Furthermore, they support Saudi Arabia’s position on the Syrian crisis.
The Independent report indicates that the Saudi security operation in Al-Awamiyah may be one of the results of the US President Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia. The operation began after the Islamic-American summit in Riyadh.
It seems that the Saudi government may have got a green light from the United States, which certainly wants to keep the Saudi oil-rich areas under control and away from any Iranian influence.