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  • Execution by Swimming Pool: A Saudi Legend? October 16, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback

    drown swimming pool

    While looking into the case of the execution of princess Misha’al in Saudi Arabia in 1977 Beach ran across this passage.

    Eight months after the airing of Death of a Princess [April 1980], another prince approached King Khalid asking approval to have his adulterous daughter executed [so early 1981?]. The King, fearing a repeat publicity scandal, turned down the request, but suggested to his brother that he should handle the matter himself. The brother obliged. He took his daughter swimming in the sheltered pool of his palace and drowned her. The House of Saud claimed it was another accident. The murdering father has been married 36 times. The only attaché at the American Embassy to talk about it was told to shut up.

    It is a powerful story. Private ‘justice’ and honour killings are sordid affairs, particularly when they involve naïve young women, but the use of a swimming pool with its associations with the super-rich provide a perfect Saudi image. The tribal warrior, a generation off the camel, carrying out the law of the desert in his Olympic size paddling puddle. The story/tale comes in The Rise, Corruption and Coming Fall of the House of Saud, 82, by Aburish a rather harsh book (as the title might suggest) and might be a complete fiction: it has the feel of an urban legend. Aburish does not mention the prince in question, unless 36 times is a clear reference to someone in the Saudi royal family. In Women in Islam (Bingham, 1980, 8) there is a reference to the brother of King Khalid having drowned a daughter in a swimming pool: Khalid had 35 brothers apparently (doubt this is a complete list).

    However, Beach, then, ran across this story again in Sasson, Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil. There two girls enjoy a bit of light-petting shenanigans with some foreigners and get delivered back to their parents by the morality police. The girl is chained and the whole family was forced to watch as she was drowned in the family swimming pool. Sasson’s book seems to be more fiction than fact, and its inclusion would edge the swimming pool story even further towards urban legend. In Lulu in Marrakech, a CIA novel, Diane Johnson writes that Gazi did not want to go back to Saudi Arabia ‘to be divorced, publicly charged with adultery, or more likely, just disappear, or drown in her swimming pool, or tragically electrocute herself’. Finally in What Every American Should Know About Who’s Really Running the World (Rossi) we read of Saudi women ‘should they be caught kissing anyone other than their husband they could be stoned to death or drowned by their father in the family swimming pool’. Beach is well aware that Saudi Arabia is not the kind of place where girls should kiss relative strangers, but where has this meme come from? Was there an act of bestial violence in the royal family that entered legend or was this story coined to keep, God forbid, ‘girls good’: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    17 Oct 2015: An old friend of this blog Bob S writes in

    In a comment posted online following an article about an honour killing of a young Muslim girl in Canada, Jean Sasson, the author of the Princess trilogy (mentioned in your initial piece) wrote the following (posted 1 July 2008):

    “When I first reported these practices in the early 1990’s, I was ridiculed and attacked worldwide, including in my own country by practically everyone as I was instantly and falsely accused of “making propaganda against Muslims” — nothing is further from the truth as I judge each individual I meet on their personal conduct, caring not a whit if they are Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddist, Jewish, etc., — I do understand that I was heaped with scorn because anyone who had not lived in Saudi Arabia truly could not could believe that a father would drown his own daughter in the family swimming pool, or stab her death, for the “crime” of merely talking to a boy over the telephone, etc. (When I first arrived in Saudi, the most popular way of murdering wayward daughters was to tie them in a rock-filled bag and lower the bag into the family swimming pool — I was proudly “assured” that it was a “clean” way of getting rid of a daughter who had dishonored the family — no hand-to-hand combat when holding down a girl to stab her or strangle her, etc. In the early days, they even had such events proudly publicized in the newspapers with praise for a God loving father who upheld the tradition of washing away the stain of dishonor by murdering “bad” women in his family– when the western community got wind of it and started howling in protest, the local newspapers were ordered by the government to stop reporting on honor killings…”

    [See one of the comments on this page: https://barbadosfreepress.wordpress.com/2008/06/27/brother-charged-in-muslim-honour-killing-in-canada/]

    It would appear that there certainly was a strong belief in Saudi Arabia that such things had been, or still were being done, even condoned.

    30 Oct 2015: A western resident in SA, who knows the country well, informs me that ‘it sounds like it could be true’. This might not sound like much, but I’m grateful for an inside opinion!