What are Arabia’s princesses like?
Unlike the royal families of Europe, who are more symbolic icons of their countries than actual law-makers (see the Windsors of England), the royal families of Arabia lead in all aspects of the word, most of all as examples of great hypocrisy. The Arab kingdoms-Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Jordan and Morocco-no longer exist, however, in an isolated world: their citizens are part to outside thought and influence, as seen in the new protests that are rocking the kingdoms. This is justice: who says that these people are fit to rule? State leaders should embody the virtues and values that their nations exhort; state leaders should care about their people and listen to them. State leaders, most importantly, should be held accountable for their actions–not allowed to get away with cruel, unjust and callous behavior.
Arab female royals run the gamut, from the poised, educated and hard-working to the more spoiled, bratty behavior that one might expect of a person who is born into billions and never expected to work. Some, like the insanely beautiful Queen Noor of Jordan and Princess Ameerah al-Taweel of Saudi Arabia, work for female rights and donate millions to charitable causes. Many shiekhas hold quite influential positions, such as Shiekha Lubna al-Qasimi, the UAE’s minister of foreign trade who I reported on back in August’s post on Middle East power players. But other’s are not as socially aware….
French Le Monde reported on the case against 8 Emirati princesses from Abu Dhabi who, in 2008, were arrested for having kept their house staff as slaves, more or less, in Belgian luxury hotel The Conrad in Bruxelles. The 17 female domestics were watched over by armed guards in the massive floor of suites that the princesses-from the al-Nahrayan family-had rented, being paid paltry sums and forced to sleep in the hallway so they could tend to the needs of what were apparently 8 very spoiled and out-of-touch women. The Belgian Court of Justice is once again calling in the princesses and their butler in, but an outcome has not been decided and in any case will probably be delivered “par cotumace“-that is, in absentia.
The outcome of this case will be very interesting. I am curious as to whether the domestics who filed against the family will eventually withdraw, as not all of them complained against the family in the first place (something I cannot fathom). If the princesses are judged guilty-which they absolutely should be-what will be their sentence? And if guilty, would the Belgian Court-and European Court, at that-inforce the ruling? Would the princesses be banned from travel to Belgian or Europe? If they do manage to circumvent the possible guilty ruling, no matter how, this will be a blow to international politics: royalty and the rich should not be allowed to a free pass for their actions. While that may be the norm in the Arab kingdoms, it should not be the norm in a European country.
Less inhumane but still morally wrong is the case against another princess, this time a Saudi: Maha al-Sudain was also charged with immoral behavior also taking place at hotel. This past June she was caught trying to leave the Hotel Shangri-La in Paris with her entourage sans ayant paye-a bill, that is, which was over $6 million Euros. When you’re the spouse of a Crown Prince- Nayef Ben Abdel Aziz- you surely have enough money to pay for your hotel bill, and if you don’t feel like paying such an exorbitant bill, you could keep track of your travel expenses-or just stay at a different hotel. The Shangri-La situation was not Ms. al-Sudaini’s first attempt at, well, fraud: she was also accused of not paying 89,000 Euros to investment chain Key Largo.
These princesses are worth millions-perhaps even billions-of dollars. Why jeopardize such a wonderful-at least in the material sense-life by enslaving people, or trying to skip out on bills? The amount of money they have at their disposal could be used for countless public works projects or to help the poor in their respective countries-for they do exist, particularly in Saudi Arabia in the mountain areas-but instead these women are oblivious to other people’s suffering and decide to use their privileged positions only for their own pleasure.
While these princesses might not be actual leaders of their countries, they nevertheless belong to the ruling family which, as a ruling family should exhibit grace and a high degree of morality.When one thinks of how careful is the decorum expected of world leaders and their families, this type of behavior is disgusting and it no doubt reflects on the attitudes of their male, ruling counterparts.
The case of Princess Sara bint Talal bin Abdulazizi shows where the life of an Arabian princess can go. Once a spoiled, pampered girl who was her father, King Prince Talal bin Abdulaziz al Saud favorite and earned the nickname “Barbie” because of her glamorous lifestyle, got a dose of hard reality after falling out of favor with her father. Back in July Princess Sara publicly shed light on the misgoing-ons of the Al-Saud family when she asked for asylum in Britain, citing that she feared for her life in her home country and believed her family was out to kidnap her and her children. At the time, Princess Sara did not have access to her family’s billions and was instead relying on a “donor” for money-quite the opposite of a Barbie princess.
Princess Sara stands out for her bravery, for her level-headness in choosing for her childrens’ safety over the financial security of her family’s oil money. A further search in the English news has not brought up her current whereabouts or situation, although the picture at left shows her at an event in Washington, D.C. shows her with a member of the Saudi royal family, suggesting that she may be on speaking terms with the Saudis again.
What will be the outcome of the protests in the Arab kingdoms? What would become of the royal families and their princesses if they stepped down or were disposed of their positions? As the people continue to show their discontent, will Arabia’s princesses listen to their subjects and show sensitivity in a way their male counterparts refuse to, or will they act like the 8 Emirati princesses and look the other way when faced with horror and oppression, even when they are the ones responsible for it?