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Home Current Saudi News & Analysis The Two Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia

The Two Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia

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The Two Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia

CDHR Commentary: For most Westerners and others, there is the kingdom of Saudi Arabia (the only country named after the family that rules it, “Saudi” Arabia.) But for non-royal Saudis and those who work (or have worked and lived in Saudi Arabia), there are two distinctly separate kingdoms, one for the royal family and its religious establishment and the other for the population and the 11 million maltreated Asian and other expatriate workers. Only when royal crimes against non-royals become public do most people see or hear of the difference between the two Saudi kingdoms. The cases of this submissive non-royal Saudi and foreigners like William Sampson, a Canadian who endured cruel abuses for crimes he denied committing, illustrate the other Saudi kingdom.

The Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia has received inquiries, three of which stood out regarding the vicious attack on an innocent citizen by a Saudi prince. One, what did the victim do to incur such humiliating social and physical abuse? He parked his car close to the prince’s property, according to what the prince said in Arabic on the video. Two, why didn’t the victim defend himself? In Saudi Arabia, standing up to or challenging a member of the royal family is illegal. Defying the supremacy and legitimacy of the ruling family is considered challenging the supreme authority of the king. Three, why did it take the king to order the arrest of the abusive prince? No members of the royal family are subjected to the state’s ferocious security personnel or to the punitive religious and political laws and policies which non-royals have to endure. Please read

Regardless of their political status or royal lineage, every member of the vast Saudi ruling family considers the country his/her property by right of birth; therefore, the state’s religious and political laws are not applicable to them. Given this claim of ownership, the estimated 10 to 30 thousand members of the ruling family are not only protected from the state’s punishing laws,  but receive a generous monthly allowance, ranging from $270,000 for senior princes to $ 8,000 for distant relatives such as children of liaisons with maids and slave mothers. The allowances continue even when the country is going though dire economic hardships.

Given these privileges, Saudi royals can do whatever they wish, including the importation of alcohol and hard drugs, which they consume freely and sell on to the public. However, non-royals incur harsh punishment (including death for drug traffickers) if caught consuming or selling these forbidden substances by the ubiquitous security personnel, who dare not apply the same rules to the royals. Unlike non-royals, who are constantly surveilled and quixotically arrested for minor offenses, only the king can order arrests of royals, which only happens when royal crimes become public.  ­­­­­

These have been the state’s policies and practices since its founding in 1932. However, a new generation of royals are now in power and many young Saudis hope that things will change for the better; but thus far, there is no indication of that happening soon, at least as long as King Salman remains in the throne. He believes the country must remain the property of the ruling family under the control of his uncompromising Sudairi branch. This is why, many Saudis believe, he put the state’s internal and external decision-making authority in the hands of his iron-fisted son, Prince Mohammed.


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