The mystery of the imprisoned old daughters of the King of Saudi Arabia

The mystery of the imprisoned old daughters of the King of Saudi Arabia

Former Saudi King Abdullah with his four daughters by Al-Anoud Al-Fayez (photo shown in 2014 via Channel 4 News)

In 2014, some media outlets told the story of the four princesses who had not been heard from since the death of King Abdullah

In March 2014, some international media reported that the King of Saudi Arabia had been holding four of his daughters in a palace in Jeddah for about fifteen years. At that time it was King Abdullah, the brother of the current ruler Salman: he died at the age of 90 in January 2015, and since then nothing has been heard of the imprisoned daughters, nor of their divorced mother from Abdullah, who lives in London. Someone spoke again The last article affiliate The New Yorker: The author, Heidi Blake, spoke to journalists and a researcher who, a decade ago, was able to communicate with the daughters of King Abdullah and their mother via e-mail and phone, but no one was able to give her any new information about their fate.

The four captive princesses are named Sahar, Maha, Hala and Jawaher, and they were born between 1971 and 1976 – so today their ages range from 52 to 47. Their mother, Al Anoud Al Fayez, was married off to the then Saudi Prince Abdullah when she was fifteen. Like other Saudi nobles, Abdullah was polygamous and fathered at least 35 children during his lifetime. The relationship between him and Al-Fayez was strained, according to what is known, because they did not have children, and the woman fled at one point to London and obtained a divorce from her husband.

There is no exact information about the lives of the daughters of King Abdullah and Al Fayez, but according to Blake’s reconstruction, the four women had a privileged and somewhat free childhood, during which they could travel around Europe and study. However, for some reason, they were locked inside the palace of the royal family shortly before the start of the reign of their father, who became king in 2005.

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In Saudi Arabia, women do not enjoy the same freedoms as men and cannot travel abroad, marry, attend secondary school, or undergo certain medical procedures without the permission of a male guardian, who may be a husband, father, or brother, but also a son.

Between 2013 and 2014, Sahar and Jawaher, the eldest and youngest of the four sisters, contacted some people abroad via the Internet. Sahar took to Twitter to write some messages to Ali Al-Ahmad, a Saudi dissident and political expert who lives in Washington, US. According to al-Ahmad’s account, Sahar said that she was held in a palace with Jawaher and that she and her sister had a phone that was given to them to talk to their mother; However, they had no contact with the other two sisters, Maha and Hala, who were imprisoned in another location.

Al-Ahmad contacted Al-Anoud Al-Fayez and advised her to do so a report The status of girls in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Then the woman was interviewed by Fatima Monji, a correspondent for the British TV show Channel 4 News: The interview, in which Al-Fayez’s face was hidden because she did not want to be identified, can be viewed on YouTube. On that occasion, the Saudi embassy in London contented itself with saying that the status of the princesses was a “private matter.”

Two and a half weeks later, Manji interviewed Sahar and Jawaher through a video call: it was broadcast on Channel 4 on the same day that US President Barack Obama met King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia. “We are hostages, and our father, the king, is responsible,” Sahar said during the interview. Even this interview can still be viewed on YouTube.

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According to al-Fayez’s complaint and the stories of Sahar and Jawaher, the four sisters were kept under constant watch by armed guards, and were “systematically drugged” so that they could neither escape nor receive medical care, a particular problem for Hala. , who suffered from anorexia. Although they lived in a building, their living conditions were not good because it was a run-down structure, periodically without clean water and electricity, as evidenced by some of the videos provided by the sisters that were broadcast on Channel 4.

In the interview, the two sisters said they decided to talk to reporters about their situation after their father told them he would not release them and that after his death their brothers would hold them.

As for the reasons for their imprisonment, they reported that the king wanted al-Faiz to return to Arabia and that he was essentially holding his daughters until she did so. Jawaher also said at one point that they were punished for speaking to the king about human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, which Sahar described as “gender apartheid”; In an email sent a few months later to the Middle East news website Sahar tale that the sisters were slowly being denied their freedom after they began to question aspects of the Saudi regime.

Instead, during a second interview with Monji, al-Fayez said he saw something in Saudi Arabia that the king did not want to reveal: He did not tell what it was because he hoped to convince the ex-husband to release his daughters. It shows him that he won’t talk about it.

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After interviews broadcast on British television, Sahar and Jawaher said their captors had stopped bringing them food. However, they were not denied telephone and Internet access and continued to communicate with some foreign journalists.

In May 2014, two officials of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights wrote to the government of Saudi Arabia requesting a report on the four princesses, particularly the princesses who had apparently not been fed: the UN asked Saudi Arabia not to commit further violations of women’s rights or prove that the allegations made against the king were false, but received no response.

Upon hearing of King Abdullah Ali al-Ahmad’s death, he wrote to his sisters to see how they were doing, but received no reply. Not even Manji and Angeles Espinosa, journalist from the Spanish newspaper El Pais Those who communicated with the princesses could no longer contact them. Faiz has also become untraceable: his Twitter profile has been deleted. Heidi Blake tried to find her without success. Even the United Nations did not hear anything.

The most optimistic hypothesis of people who spoke with the princesses is that after the death of their father, the sisters received their freedom in exchange for silence, they and their mother. However, Al-Ahmad is skeptical because he believes that Sahar in this case would have warned him that he was fine: according to him, the princesses could have died.

– Also read: The latest news about Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum, daughter of the Emir of Dubai, who has been held captive by her father since 2018

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