Two Saudi princesses are claiming they and two other female relatives have been held captive against their will in the royal palace compound for the past 13 years by their father, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, and have appealed to a British newspaper for outside help to be freed.
Britain’s Sunday Times reported that Princesses Sahar, 42, and Jawaher, 38, communicated with the publication by emails and phone calls from the villa to which they are being confined.
“We slowly watch each other fading into nothingness,” they said in an email.
They said that their sister Hala, 39, was being held alone in another villa and that “her mind is slipping away … that the life is being sucked out of her.”
According to the Times, a fourth sister, Maha, 41, is being held in another villa in the Jeddah compound.
The women claimed that they are unable to leave without the permission from one of their three half-brothers, including even going grocery shopping.
Sahar, one of the sisters who contacted the Times, said she had found a job as a bank teller, but that her father the king would not allow her to take a job.
“I tried to persuade him that it was a small women’s bank that dealt with university students’ accounts and that it was quite a decent place,” she said, but that “he ridiculed my efforts.”
Saudi law forbids women from driving and also requires women to obtain permission from a male relative before traveling.
The mother of the women, Alanoud Alfayez, is divorced from the king, whom she married at age 15, and lives in London. She has appealed to the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to help free her daughters, the paper reported.
“Hala’s condition deteriorates day by day and she is given no medical treatment, although there is a medical center in the palace. She suffers from serious anorexia and psychological problems. After two years without any contact with me, she was able to telephone me and told me she wanted to die,” Alfayez reportedly wrote to the U.N. agency.
The Times reported that the office said it would convey her letter to the U.N. rapporteur for violence against women.
Sahar told the paper that the king was displeased that his daughters had complained about poverty in Saudi Arabia and over their lifestyle not in keeping with the kingdom’s conservative Islamic traditions.
“We lived our lives openly and that is why they hated us,” Sahar said. “Our ‘vices,’ or lifestyle, was normal for youngsters.”
Britain’s Daily Mail reported that Abdullah has 38 children from his different wives.
The Sunday Times said it received no reply from the Saudi embassy regarding the women’s allegations.