First Published: 2017-08-13

Saudi seals off Shiite-majority town says rights group
Human Rights Watch says authorities have ‘surrounded and sealed off’ Awamiya, Shiite town in predominantly Sunni kingdom.
Middle East Online

Saudi member of security forces walks through Awamiya

RIYADH - Saudi Arabia's security forces have sealed off a Shiite-majority town in the east of the Sunni-ruled kingdom, Human Rights Watch said Sunday, following months of unrest and clashes with police.

Saudi authorities last week said they seized control of a district of Awamiya, a town in the eastern Qatif region where protests have escalated into clashes with security forces in recent months.

HRW on Sunday said Saudi security forces had completely "surrounded and sealed off" Awamiya.

The New York-based group said that, based on comparative satellite imagery from February and August, large sections of the town had sustained extensive damage, including to civilian infrastructure.

"Saudi authorities should take immediate steps to allow people to safely return home, allow business and clinics to reopen, and compensate residents for property damage and destruction caused by security forces," HRW's Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson said.

Saudi authorities have blamed "terrorists" and drug traffickers for the recent unrest in Awamiya, where clashes between protestors and security forces since May have left civilians and police dead.

The town in Saudi Arabia's oil-rich east was also the hub of a short-lived protest movement in 2011 inspired by the Arab Spring.

One of the movement's leaders, Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, was executed in January 2016 on a terrorism indictment.

Nimr's execution triggered more sectarian tension both across the Gulf and with Saudi Arabia's main regional rival, Shiite Iran.

Saudi Arabia's minority Shiite community, which makes up an estimated 10 to 15 percent of the country's population of 32 million, has long complained of marginalisation.

 

Yemen rebels warn Saleh will bear consequences

Iraqi forces advance against IS in Tal Afar

US, Gulf officials hold talks on Mideast peace

Taliban warns Afghanistan will become 'graveyard' for US

Stranded migrants feel unwelcome in hostile Bulgaria

Air raid on Yemen capital kills dozens of civilians

After Barcelona, ISIS-inspired threats in Europe continue

Netanyahu tells Putin that Iran’s growing Syria role is threat to Israel

Israel to strip accused Muslims of citizenship

Cairo warns against US decision to withhold aid

Iranian opposition leaders ‘protected’ by house arrest

Turkish FM to tell Iraqi Kurds to cancel independence vote

Qatar approves law for protecting domestic workers

Pentagon chief arrives in Turkey for talks on Syria, Kurds

Two arrested in Morocco over suspected links to Barcelona attackers

Iraqi forces retake three districts of IS-held Tal Afar

Lebanon army says in final stage of IS border battle

Spanish town Ripoll reels from discovery of it’s young jihadists

Jordan opens first job centre in Syrian refugee camp

Outrage in Morocco over sexual assault video

Former Libyan premiere Ali Zeidan still held by kidnappers

Syria opposition talks in Riyadh end with no breakthrough

Erdogan vows to prevent Kurdish ‘terror corridor’ in Syria

Iraqi troops recapture first two districts from IS bastion

UN says thousands fleeing Tel Afar amid anti-IS offensive

Second round of Kurdish referendum talks could happen next week

Dozens killed in coalition strikes as US-backed forces advance in Raqa

Iran back to high enrichment 'in 5 days' if US quits nuclear deal

Two North Korean shipments to Syrian chemical weapons program intercepted

German foreign minister says Erdogan backers threatened his wife

Turkey arrests former national goalkeeper for ‘coup links’

Iran in negotiations to unblock Twitter

Yemeni FM says Iran 'part of the problem' in Yemen

On the trail of Spain's attackers

Mattis in Baghdad to support Iraqi forces

UN urges Iraq to do more for IS sex abuse victims

Erdogan critic stunned Turkey's 'long arm' reached Spain

Spanish police shoot dead man who could be Barcelona attacker

Iraqi forces close in on last IS bastion in country’s north

Kuwait arrests 13 fugitives in Iran-linked terror case

Qatar blocks planes from transporting pilgrims

Erdogan says joint op with Iran against Kurds ‘on the agenda’

Barcelona attack fugitive ‘dangerous, possibly armed’ warn police

Lebanese president ratifies public sector wage rise, tax hike

Young Syrian refugees want end of war and ISIS