American Herald Tribune |Catherine Shakdam: It is with utmost concern that the Baqee Organization learnt of Saudi Arabia’s plans against its own Shia Muslim community as it is preparing to demolish yet another religious historic site in the name of absolutism and intolerance.
“We worry the kingdom will desecrate further holy sites and historical relics just as the forefathers of Wahhabism did when they laid waste to the Baqee cemetery in the holy city of Medinah.”
While such developments will likely be lost in the deluge of violence and recent calls for war that have inundated all of our TV screens, the Baqee Organization must stress on the links that exist in between Terror, Extremism, and the need to safeguard our historical religious heritage.
Should we allow for regimes such as that of Saudi Arabia to disappear our historical treasures for they speak of a belief system Wahhabism rejects, we stand to lose ourselves all completely to the demons of violent absolutism.
Religious freedom cannot be separated from our right to experience History. The day we fail to recognise that our very sense of self is tied to those memories, those traditions expressed in arts and in stones we stand to lose ourselves altogether.
Our humanity is multitude and should be preserved as such.
The Baqee Organization calls now for the United Nations and all state actors to intervene in preventing yet another crime against History to be carried out.
The region has lost too much of its religious history already for any of us to stand to lose more.
Saudi Arabia’s propensity to wield its axe against those treasures it views as lesser is troubling since it denotes of a genocidal streak.
If we bear in mind that few today can remember of the thriving Christian community of Najran south-west of Saudi Arabia – formerly known as the Hijaz, we may want to reconsider our cavalier position towards those sites that still exist.
Our future, and our very ability to oppose Terror will very much depends on our resolve against Saudi Arabia’s religious intolerance.
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 UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, Philip Alston, warned about the ramifications of the demolition on the standard of living of Masora residents.
“If implemented, the plan will remove people from the areas where they live and work, resulting in loss of livelihood and difficulty in securing housing,” he said.
The experts also raised concerns over the lack of “any meaningful consultation” with the residents, and the absence of less damaging alternatives, like restoration.
“The Saudi authorities must take all necessary steps to guarantee cultural rights, including the right to the enjoyment of and access to cultural heritage, and the right to an adequate standard of living, including housing, in accordance with international human rights laws and standards,” the UN experts said in a statement.
“They must halt all ongoing demolition works that do not meet these standards and cancel any planned in the future,” the statement said.
Citizens of Qatif and other oil-rich regions of eastern Saudi Arabia have for long lamented about discrimination against them. International rights campaigners have also called on Riyadh to stop the persecution of members of the Shia community, saying they should enjoy more freedom in expressing their religious beliefs.