When you think of a princess, what do you think of? Possibly jewels and tiaras? Palaces and castles? Or beauty and power?
For one royal family, it is just the opposite. The princesses of Saudi Arabia- Hala, Jawaher, Maha and Sahar- have been tortured and held captive for over a decade now. The four sisters have been drugged, whipped, and have had restricted food and water access. Needless to say, their lives have been far from a fairytale.
Surprisingly, the abuse does not stem from the hands of angry citizens or a secret police force much like that of the infamous duchess Anastasia, but instead it comes from their own father- Saudi King Abdullah.
According to the princesses, they are unsure why their father choose them out of his 35 children to hold them captive and torture for all these years. However, the torture and harsh restrictions began shortly after their mother and the king’s ex-wife, Alanoud Al-Fayez, escaped from the king’s rule and the country.
While Al-Fayez works tirelessly with lawyers and reporters to free her daughters; her daughters work to free others.
With the help of social media, the princesses are bringing attention to not only their situation, but the situation of many Saudi women. The famous sisters have become advocates for women’s rights at a time where they have no basic human rights of their own. Princess Sahar Al Saud says, “We are just an example of so many families, of what so many women, go through. Just a tiny, tiny example.” In Saudi Arabia women are not allowed to travel, obtain a passport, marry, or further their education without the authorization of a male relative. Due to the recent protests regarding women’s rights to drive, the sisters have been vocal on twitter (@FreeThe4).
It is illegal for women to drive not only in Saudi Arabia, but in most Middle Eastern countries. Beenish Ahmed of Think Progress says, “Just last month, two Saudi Arabian women were arrested and detained for driving, one of whom garnered international attention for live-tweeting.”
Despite the hardships, the princesses continue to remain positive due to their faith and advocacy.