Arab expats feel vulnerable

Saudi Arabia’s Arab expatriates are suddenly feeling the heat after a double car bombing targeted a compound inhabited mainly by Lebanese, Palestinians and Egyptians.

Assailants struck homes, killing women and children
Assailants struck homes, killing women and children

Seventeen residents of al-Muhaya compound were killed in Sunday’s blast.

A Lebanese employee at a western distribution company, who did not want to be named, said his Egyptian colleague was killed along with his family in the blast.

He said the 12 May attacks in Riyadh, when a triple bomb left 35 people dead, did not affect him and other Arab expatriates because they felt it targeted Westerners.

Sunday’s bombing, however, changed the mood.

“If this is happening to Arabs, what will they do to Westerners? There’s no longer a specific target,” he said.

The fact that Saudi officials continue to describe the perpetrators as “terrorists” and the fact that the fighters’ cause is still blurry, makes the situation all the more scary, he added.

“Everything is a target,” he said.

US policies

With Washington continuing its occupation of Iraq, despite international and United Nations protests, Arabs are feeling increasingly insecure, said the Riyadh-based employee. The Bush administration’s handling of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has only fuelled anger.

“We’ll see a parked car and wonder if it is going to blow up”
Lebanese employee in Riyadh

“People are feeling insecure… like we’re going to become slaves to the Americans. So they have nothing to lose,” he said.

Attacks such as Sunday’s are designed to send a message to the authorities that discontent is on the rise, he added. Despite increased security measures since May, he and his colleagues are on alert.

“We’ll see a parked car and wonder if it is going to blow up,” he said with a strained laugh.

But the 24-year-old is unlikely to leave, saying he will not allow such incidents to interrupt his life yet.

Army barracks

Yasmin, an Arab employee at a Riyadh-branch of a western company, has been in the kingdom for three weeks and the recent attacks do not make her feel safe in her new home. She also panicked after discovering that the targeted compound was mainly Arab.

“It’s wrong when they attack Westerners but there’s a rationale behind it. It’s a twisted rationale but it’s there,” she said.

She found it particularly disturbing that the assailants targeted residences. “Usually when you seek refuge, it’s in your home. But these people came to the heart of homes,” she said.

Some Saudi-based residents saycompound security is lax

Some Saudi-based residents say
compound security is lax

Yasmin opted to live outside of a compound because “they looked like military barracks” with tanks parked at the gates and armed guards poised to shoot behind piles of sandbags.

Media reports have described compounds surrounded by up to 50 soldiers from Saudi Arabia’s national guard, their high walls topped with razor wire and ringed by concrete blocks.

But Yasmin pointed out that when she visited her friend’s compound after the blast, security guards did not even question her.  


Muhammad, 29, is considering moving his wife and daughter,  a year and a half old, out of the compound they are living in. He has been living in the kingdom since 1976.

Although concrete blocks and roadblocks were erected around homes across the capital following the May attacks, security is still lax due to lack of equipment, budget and military training for guards manning gates, he said.

He described the attacks as confusing, saying: “There’s no logic to what is happening.” Muhammad doubted that it was the same group who carried out the May attacks since they did not target Westerners.

“Even if they are extremists, why would they kill Muslims, civilians and children?” he asked, adding that it would never make sense since “these people are brainwashed”.

Source: Al Jazeera

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