Sarah Bint Talal: Voiceless in the Kingdom
By: Afif Diab
Published Thursday, July 19, 2012
Sarah Bint Talal Bin Abdul-Aziz, the Saudi princess who recently applied for asylum in Britain, has decided to join the vocal opposition. She is demanding reform and has announced the possibility of establishing an organization or party.
Princess Sarah Bint Talal Bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud is adamant about resisting attempts to dissuade her from seeking political asylum in Britain. In an interview with Al-Akhbar, she reiterates her refusal to compromise over her demand that corrupt individuals in the Kingdom be held accountable, particularly those who work in the Royal Court, starting with its chief, Khaled al-Tuwaijiri. She wants the same accountability for those in the diplomatic corps and the judiciary.
The princess refuses “to drop the political asylum application in return for my Saudi passport to be reissued.” She says: “They want a solution? I accept, but it has to be comprehensive, and the process of accountability in government departments should begin in practice not just in words.”
She adds: “The Saudi people want everyone who has done them wrong to be held accountable. I have decided to fight corruption in the country and I cannot go back on this decision.” She points out that there are large sections of the Saudi people who morally support her in her battle against the corrupt and the corrupters in state institutions.”
The Saudi princess, who denies rumours that she has left her home in London, points out that her battle against corruption “has nothing to do with my own inheritance case. The issue is totally separate and is not connected to the political asylum application to Britain.” She adds: “I refuse to drop my application for political asylum in return for a diplomatic passport.”
She announces that she is looking into establishing an organization or party to lead the battle against corruption and corrupt individuals in Saudi Arabia. She says: “I am from the royal family and I have encountered a lot of harassment from influential and corrupt personnel in government institutions.” She adds: “If I have suffered such abuse to my personal and social life, can you imagine the immoral and inhumane practices meted out against the ordinary Saudi citizen who has no voice?”
The princess stresses that “Saudi Arabia desperately needs to begin tackling the problem of the corrupt judicial system, firing all corrupt judges.” She insists that her patriotic duty towards her country and her people “requires me to work on legal, social and cultural issues in order to serve the Saudi people and their freedom.”
She explains: “It is impossible for us to reach our desired goals if our criticism remains secretive and behind closed doors.” She adds: “Secret and clandestine criticism offers a refuge for the corrupt and allows them to carry on with their misdeeds at the expense of the country and its citizens who suffer from these corrupt invisible forces which hinder development and progress in my country.”
She stresses that she believes in what “all humans have agreed to respect, which is justice, freedom, human dignity, the independence of the judiciary, transparency and popular participation in building the state and its institutions.” She adds: “I truly believe that Islam offers a comprehensive legal system which protects these principles and guarantees their implementation. This necessitates that everyone, rulers and ruled, work according to the teachings of its laws in a way which ensures their achievement. They should not be satisfied with the pretense of applying the religious law through mere slogans.”
Princess Sarah wishes that the political leadership in Saudi Arabia would “seriously work towards an independent judiciary and on establishing the judiciary’s authority over all affairs of state,” stressing that “this is the only way to achieve justice.”
She continues: “In order to begin to establish justice, the most pressing issue in the country – the issue of political and non-political prisoners – should be resolved.” She believes, “The best solution to the problem of the prisoners is to simply implement existing criminal law.” She finds it strange that “the state passes it and the King signs it, making it law, but then it is not applied to the prisoners.” She says: “I have been told by someone who has studied this law (of precautionary measures) that it combines the justice of Islam and all human experience pertinent to guaranteeing human rights. Therefore, I do not see how anyone can object to applying it to all prisoners, regardless of why they are being detained, starting with prisoners of conscience.”
One of the additional demands made by the Saudi princess, who rejects speculation that she has broken away from the royal family, concerns expanding freedom of expression in her country, gradually loosening the state’s grip over the media until it becomes totally independent.
She says: “There is no absolute freedom in the world, and therefore I reiterate that this freedom has to come under the umbrella of the independent Saudi judiciary. They would regulate it and look into any transgressions without bias, instead of leaving it to the mood of various judges who rule according to their personal leanings or someone else’s political instructions.”
She also stresses the importance of “the freedom to establish human rights, charity and other peaceful civil society organizations and institutions which together form a progressive civil society. In all countries, this is an indication of progress and civilization.”
Sarah Bint Talal stresses that putting an end to administrative corruption in Saudi Arabia “requires transparency above all. The Saudi people need to be informed of the economic, political and developmental facts, enabling citizens to find out any information they want about their own country freely and transparently.” She warns against “hiding corruption and protecting the corrupt because this will totally disrupt the process of development for decades.”
She maintains that Saudi Arabia possesses “the elements for a giant developmental leap. All we need is human development, provisions that will enable the Saudi people to achieve their ambitions, benefitting from oil revenues in a clear and methodical way, where there is no exploitation and no squandering of money on fictitious projects.” Therefore, she asks for “an independent system of accountability to be established to supervise the funding of real projects.”
She stresses: “Establishing independent bodies for monitoring and accountability can only take place through total participation, through the establishment of civil society agencies, where you reach a position of responsibility through some form of election suitable to the country and the nature of its society.”
She continues: “Saudi society is extremely dynamic. It keeps up with change in an admirable way. All it needs is for the political decision to be taken.” She calls for “a shura [consultative] council, elected regional councils or elected committees to be established.” She says: “Saudi Arabia has to embrace the age of elections. We should all accept the principle of elections. We first choose our representative councils then we can work on the details afterwards.”
She stresses: “If we achieve freedom, justice, political participation, transparency and accountability in Saudi Arabia, we will achieve proper development and we can solve the problems of unemployment, poverty and other social and economic problems and national challenges.”
Sarah Bint Talal has made it clear that she still communicates with leading figures in Saudi Arabia without indicating whether King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz is among them. She added: “They accept my criticisms, and I have been able to communicate that exploiting influence in the country’s institutions is not a sign of power, it is an indication of weakness, cowardice and helplessness.”
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.