King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is allegedly holding his four daughters, Princesses Sahar, Maha, Hala and Jawaher, captive against their will. On March 12, 2014, the Associated Press reported that the United Nations had received an official plea for help from the girls’ mother, Alanoud Al Fayez.
Ms. Al Fayez is herself a Saudi princess who was married to King Abdullah at the age of 15. She bore him four daughters, and then he divorced her. It is well documented that girls are akin to chattel in many parts of the world. The princesses, who are held in two separate locations, claim they do not live luxuriously as one in the West would assume. Instead they have sent pictures by email and Twitter to show their living conditions, which, if true representations of their environment, should make any father, much less a king, ashamed.
The girls have reportedly been held captive for 13 years, essentially prisoners such as those found in storybooks containing tales from hundreds of years ago. Their mother, who was forced to flee her country after her husband divorced her, gave an interview in front of the Saudi embassy in London, England, where she now lives. She appealed to President Obama to mention this issue to the king on an upcoming visit. Princess Alanoud hid her face entirely with a scarf for the interview.
Since the initial reports in mid-March about the young women’s status, food has reportedly been withheld and their living conditions have gotten worse, with even water being rationed. Their mother claims she has had communications from the king, thought to be 89 years of age, to the effect that he and his sons will never release the princesses, and that his sons will continue to be their sisters’ jailers after their father’s death.
The girls had a privileged childhood with both their parents until the divorce. Their life then went from a luxurious one to one of increasing difficulty. They have not seen their mother for over a decade, but have been able to keep in contact with her through email and Twitter. Princess Sahar, the eldest, has been vocal about their mistreatment in communications with her mother, speaking out about the mistreatment of all women in the country. She says that women and children are abused, while their male guardians are protected by the courts, who allow them every privilege in domestic abuse cases.
Ms. Al Fayez has been trying to have her daughters released for years. According to UPI (United Press International), her current lawyers have made an appeal to the U.N.’s Human Rights Commission, requesting an inquiry into the matter. So far, the global organization has not taken a stand.
A former lawyer of the girls’ mother, Lord Lester, recounts in an interview how desperate she has become after being stopped at every turn from having any satisfaction in this matter. The lawyer says that at this point, the only thing that may make a difference is world opinion, and that perhaps King Abdullah will show some diplomacy if confronted with enough negative attention. However thus far when contacted, the Saudi Embassy says the matter is a private one, for the family alone.
By Julie Mahfood
Follow Julie Mahfood on Twitter @JulieWrites2