Exiled Saudi royal forms opposition group to aid fleeing Saudis, prompt regime change
Khaled bin Farhan fled threats of arrest in Saudi Arabia in 2007 [Getty]
Date of publication: 13 March, 2019. The New Arab.
An exiled Saudi prince has launched an opposition group calling for reform in the ultra-conservative kingdom.
Prince Khaled bin Farhan al-Saud, who fled Saudi Arabia more than 10 years ago, says he also wants to protect critics of the Saudi regime in light of the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year.
“We need a new system in Saudi Arabia like other democracies, where the people have the right to elect a government, to create a new Saudi Arabia,” Prince Khaled told The Independent.
“We have a vision for the judicial system, for human rights and accountability, but right now we need to focus on the constitution and on activism to help Saudis in Europe.”
Fleeing Saudi Arabia
The opposition group, named “the Freedom Movement of Arabian Peninsula People”, will provide people fleeing the kingdom with lawyers, translators and access to help them seek asylum in Europe, rather than them needing to rely upon social media campaigns, the prince said.
The idea to provide aid to Saudis fleeing the country, was inspired by the killing of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year, the plight of Saudi teen Rahaf al-Qunun, and Prince Khaled’s own experience.
Qunun fled from her allegedly abusive family to Bangkok while on a trip to Kuwait in an attempt to seek asylum in Australia.
After Thai immigration authorities refused to admit her to the country in January, she barricaded herself in an airport toilet, and then a hotel room, from which her impassioned social media pleas finally earned her asylum in Canada.
“I had to leave Saudi in 2007 when I was warned there was an order for my arrest because I was critical of the state,” he explained.
“I felt this suffering myself. I want to help others who faced the same problems as me. When you make calls against the government you need help.”
The prince is part of a section of the royal family which has clashed with de-facto ruler and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. His sister and father are under house arrest in Saudi Arabia.
The royal believes Saudi authorities had planned to kidnap him just 10 days before the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.
The prince, whose mother is Egyptian, was offered millions of dollars if he agreed to travel to Cairo and meet Saudi officials inside their consulate.
Prince Khaled refused, suspicious that the offer was in reality a ruse to lure him back to Saudi Arabia.
Dublin-based regime critic Abdul-Aziz Amoud, who set up an organisation to help Saudi women fleeing the country, says the group’s work will be vital, particularly for women.
“Women in particular are super-vulnerable. The Saudi authorities have repeatedly used their embassies to work against people, even in the case of domestic issues like Rahaf,” he told The Independent.
A new regime
The exiled prince also advocates Saudi Arabia’s transition to a constitutional monarchy with an elected prime minister and cabinet in order to end “endemic human rights abuses and injustice”.
Khaled said that the royal family could remain as symbolic figures heads in the country, like the queen in the UK, but they would lose all political power.
The group also hopes to establish links with international media and a commission to lobby for the release of jailed activists, such as women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul, and others who have been unjustly arrested.
He says he has enlisted Saudi activists in Europe and a host of immigration lawyers and translators in Germany to help form the basis of the network to aid Saudis who have faced torture or injustice in the kingdom.
“Khaled has taken a very important step to break with the royal family in order to restore democratic freedom to the people of Saudi Arabia,” Abdel-Salam Ismail, a translator who hopes to aid Saudis seeking asylum through the group, told The Independent.
“We will not only be engaging lawyers who are specialised in asylum cases but employing people to take care of things like bringing family members over and integration including applying for schools.”
Prince Khaled says he hopes he will not be the last Saudi royal to call for reform: “I am so far the only royal family member in this movement but I hope others will join me. Jamal Khashoggi is one of thousands of citizens who have been killed unjustly. We want to rise up against his injustice to save the country from collapse.”