The 29-year old Prince Majed bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is the son of King Abdullah who died last January.

news Saudi Arabia Thursday, October 22, 2015 - 19:01

Earlier this week a Saudi Prince was arrested and subsequently released in the United States (US). He was accused of being drunk and forcing his domestic staff to watch and perform sexual acts in his mansion in Los Angeles. Media reports say he told them ‘I am a prince and I do what I want. You are nobody.’

The 29-year-old Prince Majed bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is the son of King Abdullah who died last January. Cutting short his visit to India American President Barack Obama joined other heads of state and governments, Kings and Queens to pay last respects to the deceased King. At the time of his passing, questions about the already doddering House of Saud grew louder. Had push come to shove for Riyadh?

One thing is certain – oil politics is still very important, but that's not the only determinant in US-Saudi relationships ever since the former became energy independent. The tapping of shale gas is the culprit or the saviour depending on viewpoints. The other critical entrant challenging this equation is Washington’s new relationship with Iran following the nuclear deal and the focus this will gain in the coming months and years.

Saudi Arabia’s deathly hypocrisy will be increasingly revealed thanks to technology and the failure of democratic governments to call the country’s bluff. In the absence of official support, citizens have taken it upon themselves to expose what really happens in a country that boasts of high moral standards and beheads people in public and hangs their bodies for the world to see. Domestic helps and caretakers of mansions have shown more courage than diplomats who speak in hushed tones. An Indian lady from Chennai who had gone to the country as a caregiver had her arm chopped off as she sought to free herself from her torturous employers.

Before the revelations about Prince Majed in the US, a British expat told media that young Saudis use apps like Tinder to reach sex-workers, secure cannabis and black market abortion pills as well as moonshine. Saudi adolescents and young adults reportedly use Captagon (an amphetamine used by ISIS fighters to keep them alert) to keep them high and happy. Tales of sex in bathtubs in full view of an invited audience are some of the insights. All this goes on under the obliging eyes of Muttawa, the local police which selectively imposes Wahhabism.

In the month of January alone, a few weeks before King Abdullah died,over a dozen women had been beheaded in the country. In their tributes, some western leaders referred to the dead King as mildly progressive on women’s issues pointing to the cynicism that had seeped deep into realpolitik.

Today the number of people killed stands at 135 including the beheading of 28 guards last week for failing to save lives at the Haj stampede. The fate of adolescents who took part in a local demonstration is decided without fair trial or access to independent lawyers. Last month, Saudi Arabia was appointed to head a body of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) which sends special investigating teams to countries on fact-finding missions to report on human rights that are violated.

While reports of debauchery or death threats from the country’s ruling elite in return for sex have been making their way to the outside world, the arrest of Prince Majed could well be the straw that broke the camel’s back. It comes closely on the heels of citizens in the United Kingdom (UK) writing to their Prime Minister to save a British national from 350 lashings for possessing 12 bottles of homemade wine.

How many Indians remain trapped in the country working in inhuman conditions and with threats of their body parts being hacked? On the other hand, diplomacy demanded that New Delhi give safe passage to Saudi diplomats recently after they were accused of imprisoning women to perform sexual acts in captivity. It remains far from clear how Riyadh will fit into the shifting global scenario now, but one thing is certain. It is only a question of time when oil will cease to be the only currency of conversation.

An anecdote sums up the scenario succinctly. In the early 1980s America was selling Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), an early warning and control aircraft developed primarily by Boeing to Saudi Arabia. With tongue only partly in cheek, middle-east watchers would say the acronym actually stood for America Will Always Cocoon the Saudis. Prince Majed’s arrest, even if temporary, is a warning and it has not come too early.