Defecting Prince: Ruling Family ‘Corrupt’

Prince Khalid’s account of his family’s draconian policies and plundering of the country’s wealth re-enforces what many Saudi and foreign critics have articulated for many years.

Prince Khaled


Due to “direct horrifying personal experience,” Prince Khalid Bin Farhan Al-Saud announced his defection from his corrupt royal family.

He revealed to the world what many Saudi women and men reformers and human rights activists have exposed for decades.

In an Arabic video on YouTube, Prince Khalid described his family as a corrupt group of princes who, “…don’t think about anything but their personal benefits and do not care for [the] country’s and people’s interests or even national security.”

Prince Khalid’s account of his family’s draconian policies and plundering of the country’s wealth re-enforces what many Saudi and foreign critics have articulated for many years.

Among the many damning accusations Prince Khalid mounted against the ruling princes are their claims of ruling according to Islamic law. “All that is said in Saudi Arabia about respecting law and religion rules are factitious so that they can lie and pretend that the regime obeys Islamic rules.”

Prince Khalid is not the first royal to speak scathingly about the autocratic monarchy’s corruption, monopoly on and abuses of power. Prominent among the dissenting members of the ruling family who have spoken in favor of political reforms, constitutional monarchy and an end to the ruling family’s grasping for power is Prince Talal.

Talal’s differences with his family’s absolute rule started in the late fifties

Prince Talal was enraged by opposition to King Saud’s attempt to introduce political and educational reforms including participation by non-royals in the national decision-making process. The opponents of Saud’s initiatives were led by Crown Prince Faisal and his powerful full brothers, the Sudairi Seven. Consequently, Talal formed and led a cadre of liberal princes in support of reforms. However, they had to flee to Egypt to avoid reprisal by Faisal’s anti-reform faction who dethroned King Saud in 1964.

While in Egypt, Talal’s group and some non-royal reform advocates such as Nasser Al-Saeed were given access to the “Voice of the Arabs” radio where they mounted a nightly program exposing the Saudi royals’ corruption and encouraging the Saudi people to revolt against the system.

Talal has continued to call for reforms, including a constitutional instead of an absolute monarchy. He is still openly critical of his family’s methods of ruling and monopoly:

“Here, the family is the master and the ruler…. This style can’t continue the same way. There has to be change in the nature of authority, if things are going to change in the kingdom itself.”

Princess Basmah Bint Saud (daughter of King Saud) has written extensively, blaming the country’s social shortcomings on lack of accountability and transparency, as well as excessive interference in people’s lives by the ferocious religious police.

Another outspoken influential royal is multibillionaire Prince Alwaleed, son of Prince Talal.

He has stated that the Shura Council (the powerless appointed consultative entity) should be popularly elected and empowered to legislate. His spouse, Ameerah Altaweel, has warned the Saudi ruling family about public revolt if people continue to be denied the right to express themselves and if their grievances are not addressed.

One of the of Talal’s allies, Prince Turki Bin Abdul Aziz, issued a stark warning to his family: “If we are wise, we must leave this country to its people, whose dislike for us is increasing… the only door open is now the exit door of no return. Let us go before it closes.”

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Prince Turki Bin Bandar, a grandson of one of the founders of the Saudi state, gave a damning description of his family. Among many things, he stated that no justice, freedom or accountability can ever evolve under the Saudi ruling family as it is constituted now.

None of these royals is calling for a violent overthrow of their entrenched family

Like many Saudi reformers, they advocate major political reforms without which violence is likely to erupt. They believe the system must be overhauled to accommodate the needs of an increasingly aspiring population, most of which has become educated, well-informed and yearning for political freedom and social justice.

Like most Saudis, some of these royals’ perceptions are influenced by regional and global events. They also understand that their desert kingdom won’t be shielded from the wind of Arab revolts if the ruling princes continue to ignore people’s demands for tangible political participation, religious tolerance, empowerment of women, accountability, transparency, non-sectarian constitution and the rule of law.

We see no visible evidence that the West, specifically the US, is taking seriously these royals’ – and more important, the disenfranchised Saudi citizens’ – warnings and demands for political reform, social justice, women’s rights, religious freedom and freedom of expression.

While one understands the West’s desperate need for stability in Saudi Arabia and in the Gulf region in general, continuing to support unconditionally this absolute monarchy is not only myopic, but dangerous to the stability we and the Saudi reformers seek.

As this analysis is being written, the US and other Western supporters of the Saudi monarchy are ordering closure of their embassies and consulates in Arab and Muslim countries and issuing warnings to their citizens against terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula. Al Qaeda is a creation of the lethal Saudi/Wahhabi ideology.

With unconditional US and European support, the Saudi monarchs will continue their autocratic policies at home and exportation of their lethal doctrine while seeking to protect themselves against their own creations, terrorist groups.

Given the Saudi people’s unprecedented demands for political reforms and the current absolute Saudi rulers’ (and the ones being groomed to replace them) unwillingness to concede to these demands, it does not look like there will be meaningful political reforms. Genuine change and reform is a must if the country is to be spared a bloody revolt which will necessitate military intervention by the US to secure the production and shipment of petroleum from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

The question that needs to be answered by Western democracies, specifically the US, is how long unconditional support for a regime whose polices repress its citizens and pose lethal threats to the democratic values and national security of the very same people who protect it?

Dr. Ali Alyami is the founder and executive director of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, CDHR, in Washington, DC. CDHR focuses on promoting peaceful and incremental democratic reforms in Saudi Arabia, including empowerment of women, religious freedom, free flow of information, free movement, free press, privatization of government industries, free elections, non-sectarian constitution, and codified rule of law, transparency and accountability. Read other articles by Ali.

  • roxanaaguilera


  • roxanaaguilera

    este articulo explica posiciones. q dificil se ve la cosa para una democracia en arabia!
    Es desconcertante el apoyo a la monarquia absoluta . como puede el interes estar por acima de la razon!!!. Como tampoco tiene razon la respuesta terrorista q es solo
    cambios de poderes para ahogar la democracia . No se puede crear condiciones para los extremos . Y el respeto a la igualdad de condiciones de las mujeres ,el respeto a la vida de las crianzas, libertad de religion ,expresion y elecciones libres,secrretas y directas por el pueblo q con todo derecho tiene q participar de las decisiones del pais. Despues de la corrupcion de esa monarquia q mas vendra??

  • على الزناتى

    Princess Basma called and calls for reform, she said reform and not revolution today Princess Basma Al Saud progress Pfla Fine fourth law solution to all Arab communities in particular and the world in general

  • على الزناتى

    Princess Basma Al Saud ((reform, not revolution)) according to the international mission (“My message is universal. Has taken this responsibility on my shoulders and I invite you to my participation in this trip special.”)) Towards the Fourth Way to the law of the fourth all societies

  • على الزناتى

    Princess Basma Al Saud is Amira humanity and Basma home is the daughter of the late King (Saud) so it was a symbol of nationalism and patriotism, a Saudi real because it embodies her a name and an object calls Princess to dialogue and reform through, featuring a global media articles and calculation of Twitter and Facebook