Posted in: Islamic Gender & Religious Apartheid
Published on Jan 27, 2015 by Phyllis Chesler
The four Saudi princesses: Obama mum on plight of Muslim women
President Obama, who chose not to join France's march for freedom, cut his state visit to democratic, nuclear India short in order to stop in Saudi Arabia Tuesday to pay his respects to the new king, Salman al-Saud, upon the death of King Abdullah.
Is this an urgent state matter or a matter of Realpolitik? Not necessarily. During a 2009 G-20 conference, Obama shocked people when he bowed down quite low to King Abdullah, 5'11". On that same visit, Obama didn't bow to Queen Elizabeth, 5'4".
Perhaps the president's visit is better seen as part of what he has said, many times, is his mandate to reach out to the Muslim world.
Obama has refused to call ISIS "Islamic," or to connect Jihad or terrorism with "Islam." His administration has been obsessively concerned with the false concept of "Islamophobia."
And, while our president has frequently spoken out on behalf of African-American and Muslim men, he has been all but silent about African-American and Muslim women.
Now it is urgent that he break this silence. There are Muslim and ex-Muslim dissidents and feminists who are desperate to hear supportive words from the leader of the free world.
Four such women are now in harsh captivity in Saudi Arabia.
In 1972, when he was 48, King Abdullah took a 15-year-old Jordanian-born wife, Alanoud Al-Fayez. The marriage was arranged; she was one of 30 wives. In four years, she produced four daughters — infuriating the king, who wanted more sons. (He only has seven sons — and 15 known daughters.)
For this crime, Abdullah divorced Alanoud. But he beat her, too, and prevented her from taking care of her daughters when they were ill. In 2001, she fled the kingdom, hoping that as a father, Abdullah would treat his own daughters with more kindness.
She was wrong. In addition to having a mother who "got away," these daughters, Sahar, Maha, Hala and Jawaher Al Saud, now in their late 30s and early 40s, daredspeak out for women's rights. Their punishment has been extreme and long-lasting.
The princesses are seen with their father, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz. From left: Sahar, Jawaher, Hala (on the king's shoulders) and Maha.
For 13 years, the unmarried princesses have been confined in pairs, isolated from outside contact — beaten, drugged, deprived of food and water for periods of time, slowly starved, subjected to heat without air-conditioning in the desert clime.
According to their mother's account, and to a video that Sahar and Jawaher smuggled out, the princesses claim that their "half-brothers beat them with sticks" and "yell at us and tell us we will die here."
Sahar also told The Post, "My father said that after his death, our brothers would continue to detain us and abuse us." (The London-based Alanoud maintains a Twitter account: @Freethe4.)
It's not just princesses who are at risk in the kingdom. Allegedly disobedient women at every social level are beaten daily, shunned, honor-killed or sometimes sentenced to solitary confinement in padded cells for the rest of their lives. No relative dares visit.
Please recall: In 1977, Princess Misha'al bint Fahd al-Saud tried to flee the kingdom in order to marry a man of her choosing. Such liberty is considered criminal adultery; as a merciful gesture, both the princess and her prospective husband were shot to death in public, rather than beheaded.
In 1990, 47 brave Saudi women drove their cars in Riyadh, to demand the right to drive. They were quickly detained, roundly condemned, their passports confiscated — and, they were fired from their jobs.
When I was held captive in Kabul by my own family long ago, US embassy personnel would not help me. Once my American passport was taken, I instantly became the citizen of no country and the literal property of a wealthy, polygamous, Afghan family.
This experience, which I write about in "An American Bride in Kabul," turned me into a lifelong advocate for women's lives.
The battle for women's rights is central to the battle for Western values. It is a necessary part of true democracy, along with freedom of religion and freedom of dissent. The greatest battle of the 21st century is one against barbaric misogyny and totalitarianism.
Mr. President: As Pete Seeger sings, "Which side are you on?"
There is a new king on the throne. Couldn't you have asked him to release these women, and given them a ride to freedom on Air Force One? It's not too late to make the request — and so show that America actually stands for something.
Phyllis Chesler is a CUNY emerita professor of psychology and a fellow at the Middle East Forum. Her books include "Women and Madness," and "The New Anti-Semitism."
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