New satellite imagery (above) has shown the extent of destruction at a Shiite Muslim town in eastern Saudi Arabia currently besieged by the kingdom’s forces.
In images widely shared by activists from the city of Awamiyah, one image from July – contrasted with an earlier shot from February this year – reveals that entire blocks of the al-Mosara neighbourhood have been flattened by what residents say is heavy weaponry such as shelling from mortars.
Awamiyah – a 400-year-old town in the eastern Qatif province home to around 30,000 people – has been surrounded by siege barricades put up by the security services since attempts to evict residents turned violent on 10 May.
Since then, the situation has rapidly deteriorated. Locals report at least 25 people have died in shelling and sniper fire, and pictures purportedly of streets covered in rubble and sewage look more like a scene from Syria than an oil-rich Persian Gulf city.
Foreign media are not allowed near the area, which means the world is reliant on heavily-controlled Saudi state media.
Much of the city has been left without electricity, water, rubbish collection or fire services. Private generators have been badly damaged by shooting and those remaining in the city face intense summer heat without air conditioning.
Although local committees have been set up to try to maintain some services, it is becoming increasing difficult for many residents to stay in the city.
The planned “renovation” of the historic al-Mosara district has been highly controversial. In April, the United Nations called on the Saudi government to halt the project, warning that it threatened “the historical and cultural heritage of the town with irreparable harm”.
Meanwhile, the international community including mainstream Western media outlets have remained indifferent to the ethnic cleansing in Awamiyah. Western countries including, Britain, US and Canada continue to supply the Saudi regime with weapons and tactics used to clamp down on dissent in the Shiite majority region.