Since May 2017 an ongoing insurgency has been raging in the Shia heartland town of Awamiya in eastern Saudi Arabia and its only thanks to the BBC being allowed to enter the area and film the destruction that the world can see how the House of Saud’s war against the Shia population of Yemeni has now expanded to include the Shia population of eastern Saudi Arabia.
The BBC World report shown on Wednesday, August 16, seemed to have come from Syria, with al-Zara, the ancient Shia capital of the Persian province of Bahrain and the rest of the town of Awamiya showing a level of devastation resembling that in Syria or to the Kurdish cities destroyed recently by Erdogan Ottoman’s Janissarris.
Block by block destruction of the Old City, with no visible signs of the Shia people who once lived here for millennia, with almost 500 buildings destroyed and over 20,000 driven from their homes by Saudi airstrikes, artillery and mortar fire.
The BBC crew was only allowed there in armored vehicles, filming through bullet proof windows while traveling as a part of an armored convoy. The one time they were allowed to stop and step outside the battlewagons they were riding, firing could be heard and they were quickly ordered to return to their vehicles so they could escape.
This short view of an almost unknown urban war in the midst of the Saudi oilfields, with 2 million barrels a day being pumped via Awamiya alone (20% of total Saudi exports), with the House of Saud, after Russia, being the second largest oil producer worldwide, should be sending shivers down the spines of those occupying the seats of power both east and west.
How long the Shia rebellion in eastern Saudi Arabia, home to almost all Saudi oil reserves, will be able to maintain an armed resistance to the Saudi military assault is the 10 million barrel a day question.
The excuse given by the House of Saud royal family mouthpieces is they were driving the Shia from their ancient homeland for “urban renewal” purposes. Never mind the “renewing” would destroy world heritage sites such as the ancient town of al-Zara, capital of the Shia, Persian province of Bahrain for millennia past and sacred to the Shia population and, in the process, “relocate” the Shia population as far as possible from the Saudi oil fields.
Wahhabi is as Wahhabi does with the crimes committed in the name of Sunni Islam in Yemen now being carried out next door to their cousins, the Saudi Shia. Only the silence of the media lambs internationally, alongside the UN, allows this to go unnoticed, for a double standard has long existed when it comes to condemning the crimes of the House of Saud. After the latest round of beheadings of Shia leaders, protests turned to gunfire in Awamiya and the fires of armed revolution have been lit for the first time in Saudi Arabia.
The Shia of eastern Saudi Arabia are cousins to their rather unorthodox Houthi neighbors in Yemen with a long history of intermarriage and commerce. The flood of small arms that has plagued Yemen for decades past have over the years made its way into the hands of the Shia population in the midst of the House of Saud’s oil fields. While many waited in vain for the armed struggle to break out in Bahrain, instead it exploded in the cultural heartland of this once Persian province and in a much more strategically critical location, in Awamiya and ancient al-Zara.
While still early, for almost 4 months now the armed resistance in Awamiya appears to have fought the Saudi army into a stalemate, surviving heavy air and artillery bombardment, with shots still ringing whenever the armed might of the House of Saud ventures within range of their small arms. If this very first armed uprising is able to maintain their determination to see an end to their oppression by their Wahabi occupiers, similar to the relentless fight being waged by the mainly Houthi based resistance in Yemen, then all hell could break lose.
Losing control of their oil fields would inevitably bring down the Royal House of Saud, in power since their installation by the British after WWI.
If this armed uprising survives the Saudi Army onslaught and can spread to villages and towns throughout Shia eastern Saudi Arabia and the over 3 million strong Shia people take up arms against the regime similar to their cousins in Yemen those shivers running down the spines of the lords of power east and west could quickly grow to be migraine headaches as a major portion of the world’s oil supplies could be threatened if not cut off.
Thomas C. Mountain is an independent journalist in Eritrea, living and reporting from here since 2006. See thomascmountain on Facebook or best contact him at thomascmountain at g mail dot com.