Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Saudi princess joins clamour for deep reform

Princess Basma Bint Saud Bin Abdul Aziz is one of the more unlikely critics of the elite that runs Saudi Arabia.

The oil state boasts a 15,000-strong royal family but it is rare for a voice from within its ranks to become part of the growing clamour for reform in the desert kingdom.

But then, the youngest daughter of the country's second king and niece to its current ruler is no ordinary Saudi princess.

A 47-year-old divorcee who is a successful businesswoman, she has spent the last five years in the country as a journalist and blogger, confronting sensitive subjects such as the abuse of women to the chilling effect of the mutawa, the kingdom's draconian religious police.

Such has been her success she now conducts her campaign not from her birthplace in the capital, Riyadh, but a house in a west London suburb.

The princess said she was not forced to leave Saudi Arabia and goes out of her way to emphasise that her criticisms do not relate to her uncle, King Abdullah, or the other senior members of the monarchy. Instead, the focus of her anger is the men who run the country.

"The problems are because of the ruling ministers, who are incapable of doing what has been ordered from above because there is no follow-up, because there are no consequences," she said.

"If you are a poor man and you steal, your hand is cut off after three offences. But if you are a rich man, nobody will say anything to you."

She said intolerance pervaded Saudi society and was fomented by the mutawa.

"Our religious police has the most dangerous effect on society -- the segregation of genders, putting the wrong ideas in the heads of men and women, producing psychological diseases that never existed in our country before, like fanaticism," she said. (© Independent News Service)

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