Whistleblower Says Saudi Arabia Told Operatives It's Okay to Kill Villagers to Build 105-Mile Skyscraper

Crossing the Line

Saudi Arabia is working on a comically colossal skyscraper, called "The Line," that aims to stretch across 105 miles of desert and tower over the Empire State Building. And that's only one part of an even greater ambition, the world's largest construction project simply called "Neom."

Unsurprisingly, The Line is already turning out to be a hot mess, with architects struggling to finalize designs, while the foundations are already being built.

Besides getting a reality check, the project — led by the journalist-mulching Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — is also already mired in human rights abuses. Ex-intelligence officer Rabih Alenezi, who has been living in exile in the UK since last year, told the BBC that Saudi forces were given the green light to use lethal force to clear land for the sprawling construction site.

Alenezi claims that he was told to move a nearby village, resulting in a protester getting shot and killed — serious allegations that highlight a worrying cost to Saudi Arabia's megalomaniac city project.

Clearing Land

At first, The Line was meant to be a car-free city that measured 650 feet wide and 105 miles long. But projections suggest the Neom project could end up costing a whopping $2 trillion, four times the initial budget. And only 1.5 miles of The Line will reportedly be built by 2030, instead of ten miles.

While The Line's path largely passes through uninhabited desert, more than 6,000 people still had to be moved, according to the Saudi government. UK-based human rights group ALQST, however, believes that number to be in the tens of thousands.

According to satellite images analyzed by the BBC, three villages have already been demolished, including schools and hospitals.

Alenezi told the broadcaster he was instructed to clear a town called al-Khuraybah three miles south of The Line. A man called Abdul Rahim al-Huwaiti reportedly refused to give up his land and was shot dead by Saudi authorities, who later claimed that he had opened fire on them first.

ALQST claims that 40 people remain in detention, including five who are on death row.

Other international contractors from the UK and the US that have since pulled out of the project also told the BBC they were appalled by the reports of residents being forcefully evicted.

While the broadcaster was unable to independently verify Alenezi's claims, they nonetheless paint a worrying picture of the human cost of constructing a 105-mile skyscraper — even when it's being built in the middle of a desert.

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