Saudi Arabia Says Sharia-Ruled Desert Skyscraper Will ‘Free’ People

The “Mirror Line” – a 120-kilometer-long skyscraper metropolis in Saudi Arabia’s arid northwest – will free its proposed 5 million residents “from roads, cars and emissions”, according to the Saudi Press Agency this week. week.

According to an English-language report on the project by Saudi news agency al-Arabiya, the “Mirror Line” will trap its expected 5 million residents in an environmental paradise where walking and a government-controlled high-speed train will be the only forms of transport. The skyscraper development will include artificial agricultural sectors that make food available to residents in “community canteens”, the Wall Street Journal reported last week, citing unnamed officials working on the project.

The project will also have a sports stadium and a “marina” within the building complex.

The insular nature of the project raises many questions regarding civil rights, particularly the preservation of privacy and access to food and other basic necessities for anyone considered a political dissident, as the sharia-ruled realm will control all access to them. The Saudi government has yet to address any of these concerns in specifics, highlighting the supposed “green” superiority of organizing citizens in an insular and vertical manner and ending private vehicles. The kingdom also stated that only wind and solar energy will be needed to maintain development.

The Mirror Line is part of a larger venture called “Neom” and led by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who reportedly told architects and engineers he wanted to build his equivalent of the Great Pyramids of Giza. Bin Salman claimed when the project debuted in 2017 that Neom would have an “autonomous” judicial and police system. The Saudi legal system currently does not provide for any municipality or province to operate independently of sharia, or Islamic law – the law of the land as enshrined in the Basic Law. The official constitution of Saudi Arabia is the Quran, the Islamic holy book.

Under its current legal system, the Saudi state has regularly engaged in a series of human rights abuses, according to the US State Department’s annual human rights report published in April. Among these abuses are:

[E]executions for non-violent crimes; enforced disappearances; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners and detainees by government agents; severe and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; political prisoners or detainees; harassment and intimidation of Saudi dissidents living abroad; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; collective punishment of family members for crimes allegedly committed by an individual; serious abuses in a conflict, including civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure as a result of air strikes in Yemen; serious restrictions on freedom of expression and media, including unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists and others, and censorship; serious restrictions on internet freedom; substantial interference with freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding or operation of non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations; severe restrictions on religious freedom; restrictions on freedom of movement; inability of citizens to choose their government peacefully through free and fair elections; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; serious government restrictions on national and international human rights organizations; lack of investigation and accountability for gender-based violence, including but not limited to domestic and intimate partner violence; criminalization of same-sex consensual sexual activity; and restrictions on workers’ freedom of association, the role of unions and labor commissions.

The Saudi Press Agency published a dramatic video of computer-generated renderings of the project on Monday; planners predict that the entirety of Neom, which will include other facilities around the Mirror Line, will house up to nine million people. The entirety of Tabuk province, where the project is expected to be located, is believed to be home to less than one million people. Tens of thousands of people are believed to live in the proposed space to house Noem currently, however, raising concerns about their human rights as the Saudi regime tries to relocate them.

“THE LINE’s designs embody what urban communities will look like in the future in an environment free of roads, cars and emissions,” stated the Saudi Press Agency. “It will run on 100% renewable energy and prioritize people’s health and well-being over transport and infrastructure, as in traditional cities.”

Mohammed bin Salman himself, when debuting the idea of ​​a vertical city in 2021, proclaimed: “the idea of ​​overlapping the functions of the city vertically, giving people the possibility to move seamlessly in three dimensions to access them, is a concept known as Zero Gravity Urbanism. ”

The Saudi press agency said this week that the skyscraper would put “nature ahead of development and contribute to preserving 95% of NEOM’s land.”

O Wall Street Journal The project’s report last week raised concerns about the reality of not disturbing the desert’s delicate environment.

“Neom employees… [have] raised concerns that people might avoid living in a high-rise environment after the pandemic and that the size of the structure would alter the dynamics of groundwater flow in the desert wadis and restrict the movement of birds and other animals,” revealed the report. newspaper last week. .

The growing volume of reports, citing unnamed concerned former Neom employees, indicating significant setbacks in carrying out the project did little to deter the kingdom’s publicity. The Mirror Line promotional video published this week followed an extensive Bloomberg News report revealing that Riyadh appears to be wasting prodigious amounts of money on consultants with little to no results, inviting radical feminists and McKinsey workers to offer opinions on potential Neom projects, but doing little to advance. they. Bloomberg quoted Bin Salman himself as enthusiastically telling the outlet that Neom’s promise is that it can be built “without having any public demand,” an apparent contradiction to its promise that the city would “put humans first.”

Neom is part of bin Salman’s “Vision 2030” project, aimed at ending Saudi Arabia’s economic dependence on oil by diversifying its economy. The official government website “Vision 2030” describes Neom as “not just a place – it’s a mindset. It is being independently designed, built and managed in a way free of outdated economic and environmental infrastructure that constrains other countries across the world.”

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