First Published: 2008-02-18

 
Saudi Shiites fear demographic balance change
 

Ismaili Shiites of Najran oppose plans to settle Sunni Muslim Yemenis in southern Saudi Arabia.

 

Middle East Online

By Andrew Hammond - RIYADH

Najran is the historic centre of the Ismailis



Saudi Shiites have asked the authorities to scrap plans to settle Sunni Muslim Yemenis in southern Saudi Arabia to change the demographic balance in an area where they are the majority.

The Ismaili Shiites of Najran, bordering Yemen, say they had successfully petitioned King Abdullah two years ago to halt settlement of up to 10,000 Yemeni tribesmen in housing projects built for them on large tracts of land surrounding Najran city.

But a protest letter sent last month to the governor of Najran province, Prince Mishaal bin Saud, complains of marginalisation and says plans to settle another Yemeni tribe must stop.

"The king and a number of decision-makers promised the citizens of Najran that settlement would stop ... it appears that settlement is a deliberate and extensive project," it says, referring to thousands of Najranis it says have long been overlooked when seeking similar state largesse.

"We received assurances that some issues might be resolved, but others will take time," said Mohammed Al-Askar, an Ismaili activist involved in drawing up the petition.

Najran is the historic centre of the Ismailis, a Shiite sect which has long complained of victimisation by the prevailing school of Sunni Islam followed by the Saudi state.

Najran was the scene of violent clashes in 2000, when hundreds of Ismailis clashed with police. Ismailis say that was the spur for plans to dilute their presence with Sunnis but that the settlement policy could provoke more social unrest.

The government's Human Rights Commission has said previously it is looking into the Najran issue.

"We really do not know much about what's going on," said Turki al-Sudairy, head of the official body on Monday. "I'm not sure what information to believe. We don't have a man there."

An Interior Ministry official declined to comment.

Ismailis are thought to form a large majority in the remote region whose population was put at 420,000 in a 2004 census.

On a recent trip to the region, large billboards signed in the name of Yemeni tribal leaders had been erected to thank the local governor and senior Saudi royals for funding some of the housing projects - prim towns with grid street designs, one storey villas, street lighting and electricity.

"It's a form of racial discrimination. We don't have services," said Said, 30, pointing to a map on the wall of a deserted office outlining plans for new housing units.

"There are families here who cannot get a new house or a legal deed to the land they live on. Even the children of the newcomers are given pieces of land."

 

Saudi King calls for ‘strong and rapid action’ against jihadists

Iran says new sanctions cast doubt on US sincerity

Gulf countries resolve six-month dispute with Qatar

Philippines enters war in Syria!

Morocco maintains regular flights to Ebola-hit nations

Jihadists distribute Yazidi women as spoils of war to fighters

Egypt reduces Badie death sentence to life in prison

AU forces liberate former Shebab stronghold in Somalia

Kurds put aside old rivalries to battle jihadists in Iraq

US imposes new sanctions on Iran

US supplies arms to Lebanon to fight jihadists

Britain terror threat level raised to ‘severe’

Libya conflict takes its toll on migrants

UN chief lashes out at 'brutal' IS killings in Iraq

Over three million Syrian refugees have fled war

Libya's troubled interim government steps down

Obama admits 'no strategy yet' to fight IS

Israel counts losses and gains in Gaza: Heavy cost for 50 days of war

Saudi Crown Prince flies to France next week: Jihadist threat tops agenda

UN confirms capture of UN peacekeepers in Syria Golan

Islamic State executes dozens of Syria soldiers in new atrocity

'Jihad recruiters' arrested in Netherlands, Germany

Saudi Grand Mufti warns youth against ‘perverted’ calls for jihad

Neo-Ottomanism scores new victory in Turkey: From Ataturk to Erdogan

Fire rises up again from under ashes on Lebanon border

Vital aid arrives in war-battered Gaza

Lebanon seeks to tackle child marriage with new legislation

Hollande: Assad cannot be partner in fight against terrorists

Egypt quizzes Morsi for 'giving security papers to Qatar'

Top Saudi envoys hold talks with Qatar emir

Obama's warfare doctrine to be tested in Syria

UN moves to impose sanctions on Libya militias

Mother of US hostage to leader of Islamic State: Please spare my son

Turkey ruling party officially approves Davutoglu as new PM

US spy agencies face difficult task in Syria

Saudi Arabia jails 18 militants on terror charges

Gazans breathe sigh of relief

Litany of horrors becomes regular fixture in jihadist-held Syria

Iraq forces mass for onslaught on jihadist siege of Amerli

Doha offers help to rebuild Gaza

Iran alters Arak heavy water reactor over Western worries

New Turkey PM leaves successor troubled legacy

US rules out coordination with Syria on targeting jihadists

Algeria president sacks Belkhadem

Calm reigns over Gaza amid celebrations