An open letter from AlAnood Al-Fayez, ex-wife of Saudi King Abdullah to US President Barack Obama who failed to raise the issue of Abdullah's four daughters held hostage by the king. The Washington Post and New York Times declined to publish this important article so as not to offend the Saudi Monarchy.
Tuesday April 1, 2014, 17:14 DST
Last week, President Barack Obama met with my ex-husband and the father of my children, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh. The world knows President Obama as the leader of the free world, defender of democracy and a supporter of human rights everywhere. We also know him as a loving parent to his two daughters, Malia and Sasha
I am a mother with four daughters – Sahar, Maha, Hala and Jawaher. Unfortunately, unlike Mr. Obama and his wife Michelle, I do not have the joy of seeing my children near me. This is because their father has been holding them inside a high-walled compound for the past 13 years. This situation is not a figment of my imagination, but has been confirmed and reported on by credible news outlets such as British Channel 4.
Last Friday, President Obama was a stone’s throw away from my children and at arm’s length from their father. The anguish of a mother kept apart from her own children who have been living in agony for years is far too great to bear.
My children have been robbed of their right to study, work, start a family, travel and visit me. The King’s other children, sons and daughters, enjoy the opportunity to travel freely, study or indeed, live in the West. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Saudi princesses live in the United States and Europe to escape the prison-like conditions even for female members of the ruling family. My daughters, in contrast, have been deliberately denied even medical attention that they urgently need.
My daughters are lovely and talented women. Sahar, the eldest, is an artist and a free-thinker. Maha, sensitive and analytical, has a penchant for business and politics. Hala is brilliant and compassionate; she majored in psychology and graduated top of her class. She loves to play the piano and compose music. Jawaher, my youngest daughter, also loves music and hopes to earn a degree in sound engineering.
I taught my daughters to be strong and speak the truth even to their powerful father, who doesn’t enjoy being challenged and especially not by women. When my daughters told their father his wealthy kingdom is full of terrible poverty, he called them liars, even as hundreds of men and women wait under the scorching Arabian sun to plead for the king’s help in ameliorating their dire economic or medical situations.
The plight of my girls, while sad, is hardly unique. The Saudi King’s law gives males complete and absolute control over women in their families without any regard for their wishes or rights. Without committing or being accused of any crime, my daughters are suffering psychological and physical abuse, with little hope for salvation from within Saudi Arabia. The king’s half-brothers, Minister of the Saudi National Guard Mitab and Deputy Foreign Minister AbdulAziz, vow to uphold the detention after the king’s death. Can President Obama imagine being separated from his daughters? Would the President be able to see his two daughters suffering under such inhumane conditions? If not, how can he do business with the man who has abused his own flesh and blood for 13 years?
With Obama’s public stance as a defender of human rights everywhere, he should have used his visit to Saudi Arabia as an opportunity to raise the issue of women’s rights, including the plight of my daughters. My daughters deserve to pursue their happiness anywhere they wish. They deserve to rebuild their lives outside the locked doors and high walls of the modern day Monarchy of Darkness, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
When Mr. Obama met with my ex-husband this week, he did not demand the liberation of my daughters, nor all the Saudi women enslaved by mindless, medieval social paradigm in which women are property. This clear Obama failure should be a permanent part of his legacy. He could have changed that by being the first American president to address women and human rights abuses by the Saudi king.
AlAnood AlFayez is the former wife of Saudi King Abdullah, she currently lives in London
Channel 4 Coverage
Exclusive: ‘locked-up’ Saudi princesses’ message for Obama http://www.channel4.com/news/saudi-princesses-sahar-jawaher-king-abdullah-barack-obama
(Courtesy Institute of Gulf Affairs, Washington DC)