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The princess calling for reform in Saudi Arabia

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Summary of story from The Independent, January 3, 2012

Her Royal Highness Princess Basma Bint Saud Bin Abdul Aziz is an unlikely critic of the Saudi elite.

Basma Bint, the youngest daughter of the country’s second king and niece to its current ruler, is a 47-year-old divorcee and a successful business woman who has spent the past five years building her profile as a journalist and blogger.

She has used her journalism to campaign on subjects varying from poverty and the abuse of women, to the draconian actions of the mutawa – the kingdom’s religious police.

Her work has won her 25,000 Facebook fans and considerable praise for shining a light on the problems in Saudi society.

The princess now lives and works in Acton, London. However, she insists that she is no “rebel” and was not forced to leave the kingdom.

And she is keen to stress that her criticisms are not aimed at her uncle, King Abdullah, or the other senior members of the monarchy.

She focuses her attack on the governors, administrators and plutocrats who run the country day to day.

“The problems are because of the ruling ministers. We have ministers who are incapable of doing what has been ordered from above because there is no follow up, because there are no consequences.

“If you are poor man and you steal, your hand is cut off after three offences. But if you are a rich man, nobody will say anything to you,” she said.

She talks about her schooling in Beirut, Hertfordshire and Switzerland, the irony of the religious police – the mutuwa - and about returning to Saudi Arabia and the violence against women there.

“Why don’t we actually fight for a woman’s right even to complain about being beaten up. That is more important than driving,” she says.

“If a woman is beaten, they are told to go back to their homes – their fathers, husbands, brothers – to be beaten up again and locked up in the house. No law, no police will protect them.”

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