#Awamia_Siege_2017: What’s Beyond Escalation?
Starting on May 10, 2017, the brutal Al Saud regime have laid siege on its own people in the town of Al-Awamiyah, in the Qatif eastern province, with its estimated 30,000 population.
Under the pretext of "developing" the ancient neighborhood, Saudi forces placed cement roadblocks closing all entrances leading to the area. Residents of al-Awamia have been deprived from basic human services such as access to electricity and water. Additionally, several sources reported that the Kingdom has deployed snipers with their armored vehicles to the place.
On the topic, al-Ahed website conducted an interview with London-based activist Ameen Nemer from Al-Awamiyah. Commenting on the field developments, Mr. Nemer considered that signs of long military operation continue: "More barriers to block the entrances. Raids and arrests. I can see there is a clear measures of forced displacement plan."
Citing information regarding an official plan to reduce the population from 30,000 to 9,000 in Awamia through a collective punishment policy, Nemer listed the measures being taken as follows:
1. Forced displacement for Almousawara neighborhood: Power cut
2. Forced displacement for Aldeerah: Power cut
3. Forced displacement for other neighborhoods: Shooting randomly, damaging properties, shops, schools + Stopping the services such as: health centers, firefighters, cleaners and ambulances]
4. Raids and arrest
5. Spreading horror among civilians
6. Damaging properties
7. Shooting almost 24h
As a result, some families have already became refugees living with their relatives temporarily. Other families rented outside Awamia temporarily until the tension ends. Some might have made a decision to leave Awamia for good, Nemer added.
Whether snipers were based on rooftops of the town, Nemer didn't deny that it could have happened at one point for a short period of time; however, he was certain that Saudi forces used the roofs to shell Almousawara neighborhood from three sides with RPGs carrying different explosive heads as reported with photos of the remains of shells.
Further elaborating on the pretext of the campaign against the Shia-populated town, the Saudi activist stressed that they used the word "developing" to demolish the Almosawara. "It reminds me of promoting "democratizing" idea in the Middle East in 2003." Moreover, he considered that a process to develop a place doesn't happen by forcing its people to leave their homes by the power cut. The power cut happened even before the 10th of May 2017.
"The government knew there would be a reaction from people. So, as a headline, injustice and violence would bring more violence. Also, the government in real wants to hunt the wanted men that has been chasing for long. The government accused them of terrorism based in unproved charges. Without investigations, they were demonized through social media and official outlets."
As everybody knows, "there is no free press to talk about the reality in Saudi Arabia. I dare the government to invite independent and free journalists or international organization to investigate the situation and look at it deeply. The Saudi government simply resists a real reform to empower people," Nimr added.
He went on using martyr Shiekh Nimr al-Nimr's case as a very good example of an oppressed person who called to achieve rights through peace and he called not to use violence because the government has the upper hand.
"Now, Sheikh Nimr was executed, no one else is safe. I think the wanted men found out defending themselves with weapons is the only way to survive," he said.
In this respect, Mr. Nimr called for an urgent and quick international peaceful political intervention before things go out of control.
Trump's Greenlight to Escalate the Situation?
On the sidelines of Trump's visit to the Saudi Kingdom, we asked Mr. Nimr whether he thinks that Mohamad Bin Salman- the real ruler of the Kingdom- has taken the green light for escalating the situation on more than one front.
Respectively, Nimr stressed that what is happening goes in harmony with the Saudi local and international policy of escalating and confronting since 2011.
"YES, it has a green light for escalating. And to look at the bigger picture, Trump gave an order to launch 59 missiles within 100 days of being a president. Then he gave another order to test MOAB in Afghanistan and was threatening Korea. His language talking about these attacks showed him as Arms salesman more than a president who seeks stability and peace. The latest Arms deal with Saudi can tell the same thing."
Options for Military Resistance
In this respect, Nimr described the scene as follows:
The Saudi government has been violating the town for two weeks by shooting randomly. Let aside, a collective punishment has started with the Military campaign, no cleaners, no fire-fighters and no ambulances were allowed to do their job. I can see signs of force displacement plan of almost 30.000 citizens. With this atmosphere of violence by the government, a reaction is certainly expected from some people.
According to the Ministry of Interior statement, one of the armored vehicles was attacked by an RPG, one soldier killed and five others injured. It is important to note that Saudi Arabia is full of weapons since the gulf war in 1991. So it is available in the Saudi black-market through the arms dealers. On May 20, another armored vehicle was destroyed. There was no statement from the ministry of the Interior, except some tweets by an account affiliated with the operation saying all soldiers are safe.
Unfortunately, I can see the violence is growing and normal people will be severely affected and the government is the main responsible of this. I can see the violence could easily move to other towns and cities. The government has to stop this before it becomes out of control. The government still have a chance not to be an arrogant and start empowering people politically for real which is honestly just a dream, Nimr concluded.
But would a dream of a humanitarian kingdom be fulfilled? It doesn't seem likely despite big hopes that such rulers would someday learn to treat their own people with dignity and respect.