SHAFAQNA – In yet another grand display of religious repression against Saudi Arabia’s Shiite community, al-Saud monarchy ordered a brutal crackdown against the city of Awamiyah, in the eastern province of Qatif, so that it could play demographic remapping under the cover of real estate development.
As Riyadh security services opened fire on unarmed civilians to please their King’s, media argued necessity, defending their position under the premise Saudi Arabia’s Shiite population stands a threat to national security.
The Kingdom’s authorities said on Friday that workers on a controversial redevelopment project in the 400-year-old Almosara neighbourhood “came under fire and their vehicles were targeted by explosives” by “terrorists”.
The militants were trying “to jeopardise the project and protect their terrorist activities that they launch from the abandoned houses in the neighbourhood,“ a statement said.
Testimonies from residents however told of a very different reality – one filled with senseless violence, sectarianism and a systematic desire to erase Shia Islam’s history, traditions and architectural footprint onto the region so that Wahhabism could proclaim itself absolute.
Ever since Wahhabism rose its head from amid the burning sands of Nejd – birthplace of al-Saud monarchy, Islam’s many schools of thoughts and other religious communities have decimated to the point of annihilation.
Where churches and temples once stood, shopping malls and residential complex have been erected. And while many have argued that progress demanded that History be sacrificed, one may argue that Riyadh’s systematic campaign against religious pluralism speaks too much of religious repression for anyone to care to look away.
In a land ruled by exclusionism and radicalism, Shia Muslims have been labelled enemies of the state and their life forfeited at their first breath … yet few nations have dared raised but an eyebrow before Riyadh’s bloody crusade. For all the many horrors and senseless abuses committed against law-abiding and peaceful citizens in Qatif, al-Saud has been hailed a model of cooperation against terrorism by its western allies.
But what is Awamiyah massacre but not the embodiment of terror. Worse still, is it not the face of Wahhabism that al-Saud unveiled when it called upon its security services to use its own citizens as target practice in the name of a warped sense of religious righteousness.
Awamiyah is of course no stranger to such violence.
Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, who was executed by al-Saud regime in early 2016 hailed from that very city – and it is there in its streets and its mosques that he called for equal rights, religious freedom and equality before the law.
For he dared speak democracy in a land ruled by a violent and reactionary theocracy he was beheaded, to later be crucified.
Today Awamiyah resembles a war zone … and still few have those to voice but a whisper in outrage.
The Shiite-populated Eastern Province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the oil-rich region.
Such demands have been met with lead, fire, and bloodshed.
The Baqee Organization in the united States of America however decided to take a stand against the aberration of Wahhabism, calling on the international community to take actions against such a crackdown.
“Beyond the killing of innocent it is important we recognise the seed of sectarian exclusionism and radicalisation. Saudi Arabia has worked to erase all faiths and all traditions across not just the kingdom but the Islamic World. We cannot remain blind to the suffering of the innocent without risking to become accessories to terrorism ourselves.” Baqee Organization
Awamiyah is sadly just one chapter of Saudi Arabia’s little book of horrors and repression.
For decades now the kingdom has used its financial resources and its influence to suffocate religious communities and wield destruction against holy sites, and sacred relics to promote its own dogma: Wahhabism.
It is to defend people’s right to religious freedom and right to their cultural history that the Baqee Organization has tirelessly spoken against Saudi Arabia’s agenda. Most recently the Baqee has launched a campaign aimed at exposing the abuses suffered by pilgrims in both Mecca and Medina by the hands of the Saudi authorities.
By Catherine Shakdam – Director of Shafaqna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies