Call for help from a captive Saudi princess

Call for help from a captive Saudi princess

Reformist Basma ben Saoud, niece of King Salman, has been arbitrarily detained in a country’s prison since November. A blow from the powerful crown prince MBS, used to eliminating his rivals?

© Marcus Ingram
Saudi Princess Basma Ben Saoud, in the United States in 2016.

The appeal from his prison by Saudi princess Basma ben Saoud clarifies the mystery of his disappearance for more than a year and confirms the suspicions about his arrest. “I am currently being arbitrarily detained in Al-Hair Prison without [avoir commis] of crimes or other facts, we read on the princess’s Twitter account. I was thrown in jail after being abducted without explanation with one of my daughters. “ Evoking his state of health “Very critical“She calls on her uncle, King Salman, and her cousin, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), to review her case and release her.

Representative of the reformers

A prominent figure, Princess Basma, 56, is the youngest daughter of King Saud, who reigned from 1953 to 1964. This entrepreneur lived for several years in the United States and the United Kingdom. In remarkable English and outspokenness for a member of the Saudi royal family, she often appeared in international media and forums. His public positions in favor of constitutional, political and economic reforms in the kingdom were aimed in particular at the abuse of the religious police against women.

Far from being a real critic of power, she passed for a representative of the reformers in her country. Her profile perfectly matches those that Saudi diplomats and communicators like to highlight: modern and competent women – and especially the princesses of the family -, so as to make a good impression abroad.

Today, the detention of Basma ben Saoud is revealed in a context doubly conducive to legitimate concern. The brutal grip of his powerful cousin MBS (who does not hesitate to arrest his rivals within the family) makes him the “Usual suspect” In addition, the Covid-19 epidemic that is also hitting Saudi Arabia puts the prisoner, who suffers from heart and respiratory problems, at particular risk. “My health is seriously deteriorating and this could lead to my death”, wrote the princess in her appeal to the king. “I have not received treatment or even a response to letters sent from the prison to the Royal Court”, she adds.

Family conflict

Several tracks are mentioned to explain the reasons for the princesss arrest at Riyadh airport when she was leaving with her daughter for Geneva, where she is followed medically. Divorced and the mother of five adults, Basma ben Saoud was in a family dispute over the inheritance or guardianship of the youngest daughter, according to London-based scholar Madawi Al-Rasheed.

Cited by the Deutsche Welle in Arabic, which investigated the “disappearance” of Basma in November, the expert who regularly denounces the crown prince and his zealous entourage doubts that “We are attacking a princess”. Her call from inside the prison, where other prominent princes are held, indicates that there are no longer any red lines in family quarrels among the Saud in the MBS era.


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