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"In a land where Kings still rule, I am a Princess.  You must know me only as Sultana, for I cannot reveal my true name for fear that harm will come to me and my family for what  I am about to tell you."

You are looking at a copy of a photograph recently taken of a young woman in Saudi Arabia who is being raped on a daily basis.  This woman was forced by her father, against her will, and against her religion, to marry a cruel, old man who she did not know.  This man now has complete control over her life.  She is truly “buried alive” by the primitive customs which dictate the lives of so many Saudi Arabian women.

Click to read a poem by  Munira Al-Saud

NEW!  The following letter just arrived from Princess Sultana...

LETTER # 2

From Princess Sultana Al Saud

           Translated from Arabic into English on November 4, 2002

Dear Readers:

The world twisted and turned in many directions on that dark day when airplanes piloted by men from my own land sliced holes into buildings, holes into many human hearts, and altered the world from the highest mountains to the deepest seas.

Since that day, I have felt a heavy sadness rule my heart and have lived without the ability to produce the words that I wished to say to the readers of the books about my life. 

Like every feeling person, I wept bitter tears at the grief and anguish those misguided men created.  I wept more bitter tears of disbelief when many Arabs expressed joy at the agony of Americans.  I could not understand their joy.  I am a mother and carry a mother’s heart in my breast and I mourn for every mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, son, wife and husband who lost the ones they love.

 I want to share my feelings with you.

On that day, many Al Saud family members were in the Saudi mountain city of Taif, where we often travel to escape the terrible desert heat of Riyadh.  My family had lived a routine day of visiting, eating, and playing backgammon with each other.  We were preparing to gather for an evening meal when one of my daughters rushed into my sitting room and screeched so loudly that I believed for a moment that our beloved King Fahd, who has been ill for more than one year now, had passed away.  My child’s words were mingled with shouts and it was several moments before I gathered that a terrible calamity had taken place in America.  Although shaken, I followed my child into the main television room to discover the source of her terror. 

Many Saudi Arabian citizens do not enjoy the privilege of a satellite television mechanism to listen to the news of the world, but my family is fortunate in this respect.   We were able to see the events as they unfolded.

Watching the chaos of New York, I stood frozen in disbelief.  My mind could not understand the vision I was seeing.  With my hand over my heart I suddenly recalled that my own beloved son was traveling.  My mother’s heart nearly ceased beating until Kareem reminded me that Abdullah was a world away from New York City.  Still, I would not stop shouting until Kareem located the whereabouts of my son and I knew with certainty that he had not been an innocent passenger on one of the tragic flights.  Once I knew my son was still with the living, I concentrated on the horror overtaking the many innocent souls.

Once I was able to move my feet, I collapsed on the sofa and sat like one paralyzed.  For hours I sat and moaned.  I did not eat.  I did not sleep.  Maha, claiming she was worried about my pale color, brought me a glass of apple juice and held it to my lips until I swallowed some liquid.

None in my family slept or ate for that entire night.  The scenes of burning and falling buildings were so shocking that our thoughts did not take us to the culprits of the crime.  We rationalized that the first pilot of the plane had suffered a heart attack and that the second pilot had become hysterical and lost control of his plane when he saw the burning building in his path.  When it became clear that the acts were intentional, we could not bear the idea.  In small places in the backs of our minds each of us silently prayed that the footprints of the terror would not lead to any Arab.

Never in our wildest imagination did we consider that believers of our own faith, and citizens of our own country, could be so cruel.  For sure, every human feeling had departed from the hearts of the men who had caused the great calamity. 

When time revealed that it was purposeful doing from people of our land, members of the Saudi royal family were numb with disbelief and grief.

Although these are difficult words to write, I will be honest in this letter about Arab emotions.  This is the heartbreaking truth that I discovered.  Although the sane rulers in the Arab world were miserable with the truth, and saw that the events of that day could not bring advantage to their own lives, and would indeed create numerous difficulties in the area, those who do not rule were dancing with glee.  While it is true that not every Arab danced a dance of victory, too many believed that every tear shed for each death was justified. 

I watched the American and European television channels and I saw that in some Arab lands there was much celebration about a dark day.   The celebrations did not come only from the world of Muslim believers.  Many Europeans were not unhappy for America.  I had members of my own family traveling in Europe.  It was reported to me that on the day of the attacks, and the week after the attacks, most Europeans were stunned and grief-stricken.  After a week had passed, there were many whispers in France and Germany and other European countries that America and Americans had suffered a deserving blow.  This I do not understand.       

While I will acknowledge that I do not favor many of America’s foreign policies, I will hope for the day that no human being suffers pain, injury, or death at the hands of another human being.

When the full truth of that day was finally revealed and it was discovered that Osama bin Laden, a son of a respected man in my own land, created the nightmare in his dreams and delivered his nightmare to the world on the back of giant planes, I was glad that Mohammed bin Laden, the father of Osama, had not lived to see the shame of what his son had become.  My own father was once a friend of Mohammed bin Laden and since that day I have heard my father say that if the father was still with the living, that he would disown the son.  Such does not happen in the Arab world unless the offence is enormous.

When it was revealed that young men with promise had been turned into deliverers of death and destruction, I wept for every parent. 

I have said many prayers of gratitude since that terrible day.  I am thankful that I am the mother of a son who does not possess the capability of harming another human being.  I am thankful that I am the mother of a daughter who is sensitive to the point of being foolish over the feelings of animals.  I am thankful that I am the mother of yet another daughter who spends her free time plotting how to help other women escape lives of sadness.

I am thankful for these blessings.

I have been told that many of you have asked how I am doing and what is happening in my life.  I am humbled with the idea that there are people in the world who care about me, a stranger to their lives.

Although women are still not free in my land, there are some areas that are less stressful.  Our society is still segregated by sex but many Saudi females are now educated.  Other Saudi females are now allowed to own businesses, although they must have a male front who claims to be the owner.  I live in a society where much about women is “hidden.”  There is so far to go in so many areas. 

I ask my own government, which is composed of men of my own blood:  When will women drive?  When will women be allowed to walk out of their homes without their faces covered in black?  When will the government pass restrictions on mistreatment of foreign female workers in this land?  When?  I am weary of broken promises.   I want to see this change before I pass from this life.

Although there are a few women brave enough to discard the veil, and those women live in the city of Jeddah, they still are wary of the reactions they often receive from the religious authorities and young Saudi males who believe it their duty to restrict every woman.

My sisters and I continue to work with women who have no hope in life.  We have our moments of joy when we are successful.  We have our times of grief when we cannot save a young woman from a life of terror at the hand of a cruel man.

My daughters have changed little with the passing of years.  Each has remained locked inside the same determined personality.  Maha is an educated young woman who is devoting her life to the cause of helping women.  Amani is still convinced that the old ways are best, although she is less vocal about her beliefs, which is a joy to my ears.  My son Abdullah has married since the last book of my life was printed.  His wife is a beautiful young cousin who is now in university studying.

Kareem and I will be grandparents when God wills that blessing upon us.  Such an idea is a shock to my mind.  I look in the mirror and see a woman in her forties, but I still feel much like the young girl who used to sit on my mother’s knee. 

I still miss my beloved mother who would dearly love to see the children of her youngest child. 

Where have the years of this life gone? 

Although I am sad while writing this letter, I bid you a fond farewell, my readers.  My heart is forever grateful that you care.

 

Princess Sultana Al Saud