UN rapporteurs have urged Saudi Arabia to immediately halt a planned demolition of an entire 400-year-old neighborhood inhabited by the kingdom’s Shia Muslim minority.
The UN experts warned that the so-called development plan for the historic neighborhood of al-Masora in the village of Awamia in the eastern province of Qatif threatens the historical and cultural heritage of the area with irreparable harm.
They said such a move would lead to forced eviction of 2,000 to 3,000 people from their businesses and residences.
“The area is of importance not only to local people and the entire cultural landscape of Awamia, but also has national significance for the history and cultural heritage of Saudi Arabia,” said the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Karima Bennoune.
“The planned demolition would erase this unique regional heritage in an irreversible manner,” she pointed out.
Masora is considered a historical model of a walled village, including mosques, farms and farmers markets, places of worship for Shia Muslims, ‘Hussainiyats’, and businesses. It has been of great interest for researchers and experts in the fields of heritage and archaeology.
The imminent demolition of the entire neighborhood is part of a so-called development plan aimed at transforming Masora from a mainly residential neighborhood to a commercial and service zone.
Local residents are concerned that the plan will exacerbate the existing housing crisis and lead to a rise in real estate prices, as the plan does not include the construction of residential buildings.