A ‘revolution that puts humans first’ or a death sentence? Why Saudi Arabia’s ‘smart city’ is under fire

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Saudi Arabia’s futuristic mega-city, Neom, is facing criticism for its forced eviction of the Huwaitat tribe to make way for the project. Three members of the tribe were sentenced to death for opposing their displacement, and there have been claims of shootings and executions. Neom, which consists of three regions including The Line – a smart city encased in mirrored walls – has been marketed as a “civilizational revolution” that puts humans first, with 100% renewable energy and no streets or cars. The city aims to accommodate 450,000 people by 2026 and nine million by 2045, and its head of technology has said it is expected to make use of 90% of “community’s information”. Human Rights Watch has raised concerns about the use of digital technology to surveil future residents of The Line. Neom is the brainchild of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose increased suppression of political activists and dissidents has been criticised by scholars.

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