Sophie Wilkinson | Contributing Editor | Friday, 23 January 2015

Our Flags Are Flying At Half Mast For A Man Who Imprisoned His Own Daughters

The Debrief: The Saudi Arabian king has died and our politicians are (bizarrely) paying tribute…

UPDATE: David Cameron has defended his stance on Saudi Arabia, and other nations with potentially iffy human rights records at the Sky News #AskTheLeaders event. When asked by a young person if oil plays a part in the UK's relationship with Saudi Arabia, he explained: 'Of course Britain has relationships with these countries...it's perfectly possible to go to those countries and raise human rights abuses with them. If you have a relationship with them they're more likely to talk with you than if you cut them off.'

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has died, leaving his more conservative half-brother to take up the mantle in a state that has basically banned women (and executed gays, and uses public beheading as a way of crime deterrent) from society.

Oh, and if we want to get personal about it, let’s talk about one of his 11 wives, Princess Alanoud Al Fayez. He married her when she was 15, it was arranged, they’d never met before. They had four children together – all girls – who had a privileged life of skiing holidays and visits abroad. But after Abdullah divorced Alanoud, she fled to London. His reaction? To put their four daughters under house arrest. They cannot leave the royal compound without armed guards and are banned from leaving the country. This has been going on for more than 15 years.

Alanoud told Channel 4 : ‘They are really in a terrible state, especially Jawaher and Sahar. She’s telling me, "Mummy, we are trying to hold on to our sanity.” They are hanging to life. They don’t deserve what happened to them.’

So how is our government responding to King Abdullah’s death? By putting out an official request that all union flags across the country be put to half-mast. The request for official buildings to do this was put in by Sajid Javid, the Secretary for Culture, Media & Sport.

A spokesperson for the department told The Debrief: ‘This will have come from the palace, flying the flag at half mast is reserved for [the deaths of] heads of state, prime ministers and ex-prime ministers, and members of royal families.’ So, basically, it’s down to the Queen. 

What has our prime minister, David Cameron got to say about the king? ‘He will be remembered for his long years of service to the Kingdom, for his commitment to peace and for strengthening understanding between faiths.’

Obama? ‘As our countries worked together to confront many challenges, I always valued King Abdullah’s perspective and appreciated our genuine and warm friendship.’

We kind of want to know what this guy had (apart from 11 wives and four imprisoned daughters), what was so great about him that made at least two world leaders and our Queen (or at least her officials) let him get away with ruling a country that bans women from driving, forces them to wear headscarves, won’t let them leave the country without male permission, lashes a 75-year-old woman for accepting bread from a man, publicly beheads people in the street and flogs people for criticising their method of rule.

The drearier news? King Abdullah’s incumbent is the Crown Prince Salman, who is said to be more conservative than him.

On the teeny tiny plus side? King Abdullah helped grant women the vote. The local vote, at the very least.

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Tags: Around The World, FFS News, Saudi Arabia