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Monday 08 November 2010

Saudi Arabia: Death of A Prince?

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 27th October 2010

With the recent murder conviction of a Saudi prince in London after the death of a manservant, what is the background of lesbian and gay rights in Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia is one of the world's last surviving absolute monarchies and is custodian of the holiest sites of veneration in Islam, Mecca and Medina. The country itself dates back to 1744, when Riyadh ruler Muhammad ibn Saud and conservative religious reformer Imam Muhammad ibn Abd-al Wahhab established a conservative pietist branch of Sunni Islam. Throughout the eighteeenth and nineteenth centuries, it steadily accumulated territory, apart from a brief interregnum (1891-1902). By 1932, this was completed and King Abdul Aziz was crowned that same year.

In March 1938, vast petrochemical reserves were discovered, although their exploitation and resultant prosperity didn't begin until 1946. Since then, the House of Saud has governed as an absolute monarchy, with his descendants showing varying degrees of skill at economic management and political competence.

Saudi Arabia is governed under the strict Hanbali school of Sunni Islamic theological and constitutional interpretation (hadith). This permits corporal and capital punishment for murder, theft, rape, child sexual abuse, drug smuggling, adultery and gay sex. In practice, the apparently fearsome penalty is subject to diminished severity, given that four witnesses are required. Single men are treated less severely than married men, and Yemeni and Filipino migrant workers are treated more severely than Saudi male citizens. As for Saudi women, they are forbidden to vote, or even drive. Shiite Muslims, Christians and Jews are subjected to constraints on freedom of worship, assembly and expression, and trade unions and independent political parties are also banned, although HIV/AIDS prevention is allowed. There are an estimated 10, 000 Saudi residents who live with HIV/AIDS.

The current Saudi antigay laws are based on the legal opinions of noted Hanbali legal scholar Mar'l ibn Yusuf al-Karmi al Maqdisi, a seventeenth century Sunni figure. In this scheme of legal opinion, lavat (sodomy) is treated more severely amongst married men than single men. Corporal punishment seems to be the rule when it comes to first-time offenders, although the apparent racist treatment of Yemenis and Filipino migrant workers has been criticised by external LGBT and human rights groups. Police crackdowns occurred in 2005 and 2008.

Prince Saud Bin Abdulaziz Bin Nasir al Saud
On February 15, 2010, Prince Saud Bin Abdulaziz Bin Nasir al Saud was claimed to have taken the life of Bandar Abdullah Abdulaziz at London's Landmark Hotel. by subjecting him to fatal battery and strangulation. There are current questions about whether or not this was a case of severe mistreatment of a servant by an inebriated and vicious member of the royal family.

It was found that Prince Saud had taken the life of his servant and he was sentenced to twenty years imprisonment in the United Kingdom. If he is extradited back to Saudi Arabia, then he may become the first member of the Saudi royal family to face the death penalty on his return.

Recommended: Pinknews: /

Craig Young - 27th October 2010

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