Alwaght- Britain’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia has drawn human rights activists' criticism for defending the Wahhabi regime’s crackdown on the minority Shiite Muslims in Eastern Province.
In a video released on Twitter by the Saudi news site Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Simon Collis who visited Shiite-populated Awamiyah on Thursday, supported Saudi regime's clampdown on Shiites, branding them as terrorists.
"This is a place where the Saudi authorities defeated terrorists last year and where they have begun to rebuild the community," UN envoy to Riyadh said.
Ameen Nemer, a human rights activist originally from Awamiyah, said the ambassador was seeing "things through the Saudi authorities' eyes".
"It is disgraceful to sweep under the carpet the Saudi state violence," Nemer, who is now based in the UK, told Middle East Eye.
"The problems in Awamiyah can’t be solved by taking security measures or through some artificial investment.
"There are many peaceful activists behind bars since 2011. Security presence and raids are still ongoing in Awamiyah. We need a political solution."
Last year, Awamiyah witnessed angry protests against the Riyadh regime over its controversial campaign to raze the historical Musawara neighborhood of the town, located in the Qatif region, under the pretext of “renovating” the area.
Riyadh responded to the protests with force, prompting heavy clashes with the locals.
Saudi rulers claimed the district’s narrow streets have become a hideout for armed men which they accuse of being behind attacks on security forces in Eastern Province.
Riyadh then deployed military forces with heavy weapons to the town, while bulldozers escorted by heavily armored military vehicles demolished several houses, businesses and historical sites across the Shia-majority region.
Dozens of civilians were killed in the weeks-long military crackdown, including a three-year-old boy who died after a Saudi armored vehicle fired on his family car, according to locals. Some 30,000 people also fled the town.
The United Nations has blasted Saudi Arabia’s so-called renovation project as “historical cleansing,” saying Riyadh is trying to make living conditions there unbearable for the residents by imposing utility cuts on households.
The British envoy, however, claimed, “You can see that there’s been problems here in the past, but that now there is a drive to renew the community based on the return of security to Awamiyah.”
Awamiyah was home to prominent Saudi cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, whom the authorities executed in early 2016 for supporting the popular protests against Riyadh’s discriminatory policies in dealing with the kingdom’s Shiite population.
The UK, a close ally of Riyadh, has largely kept silent on the regime's suppression of dissent in the kingdom. It has also been one of the major providers of arms to Saudi Arabia during its deadly war on Yemen.