Hundreds flee Saudi town as regime forces intensify crackdown

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SHAFAQNA – Hundreds of Saudi citizens have fled a town in Qatif region following the regime’s ongoing crackdown on Shiite Muslims in the eastern province, a report said.

The Saudi forces on Tuesday intensified their crackdown on residents in Awamiyah as part of the kingdom’s systemic effort to cleanse the entire Shiite population in the area, media reports said.

Following the heavy-handed crackdown, fierce clashes erupted between the security forces and people in the city, during which at least seven people, including two police officers, were killed.

Local activists and people believe that the regime forces are targeting the residents’ houses from one side and providing them with temporary shelters from the other in an attempt to drive hundreds of them out of the Shiite-populated area.

Residents also say life has become unbearable due to frequent power and water cuts as temperatures soar over 40 degrees Celsius.

Saudi troops have so far attacked various parts of Awamiyah, inflicting heavy damage on residents’ property.

Residents complain of unfair treatment by the Wahhabi-led regime, something Riyadh denies.

Awamiyah has witnessed an increase in anti-regime protests and an ensuing crackdown as Riyadh has insisted to destroy al-Mosara, the old quarter of Awamiyah, claiming the neighborhood’s narrow streets had become a hideout for militants believed to be behind attacks on security forces in the region.

The regime intends to turn Mosara into a commercial zone, despite warnings both by locals and the United Nations that the controversial plan would ruin the 400-year-old neighborhood’s historical and cultural heritage and could eventually lead to the forced eviction of hundreds of people from their businesses and residence.

Eastern Province, particularly Qatif, has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters, complaining of marginalization in the kingdom, have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the oil-rich region.

Riyadh has responded to the protests with a heavy-handed crackdown, but the rallies have intensified since January 2016, when the Saudi regime executed respected Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, an outspoken critic of the policies of Riyadh. The provocative move further escalated tension across the province. Over the past years, Riyadh has also redefined its anti-terrorism laws so as to target activism.

The Shiite community of the province accounts for somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of Saudi Arabia’s 33-million-strong population.

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