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Monday, June 28, 2010

Death of a Princess


Re-reading The Kingdom brought back memories of the film dramatization of Death of a Princess :

One noon-time towards the end of July 1977, Princess Misha'il, granddaughter of Prince Muhammad ibn Abdul Aiziz, was led out into a car park beside the Queen's Building in Jeddah and forced to kneel down in front of a pile of sand. She was then shot dead. Standing near by was her young lover, Khalid Muhalhal, nephew of General Ali al Shaer, special Sa'udi envoy to Lebanon, and, when the young man had seen the princess die, he also was executed - by beheading.

Nearly three years later, in the spring of 1980, a film dramatization of these executions and of one journalist's attempts to investigate them was broadcast by ATV in Britain, and this broadcast caused King Khalid such offence that he instructed Great Britain to withdraw her ambassador from the Kingdom. There was even wild talk at one stage in April 1980, of not only the ambassador but all 30,000 Britons working in Sa'udi Arabia being put on planes back to London.

Such were the bare essentials of the painful international melodrama that flourished for a season around Death of a Princess. The outline of the princess's story was straightforward. Married off at an early age to an elder relative who took little interest in her, Princess Misha'il, the daughter of one of old Prince Muhammad's less distinguished sons, turned for consolation to young Khalid Muhalhal and enjoyed with him a romance whose flamboyance scandalized the rest of the family. The couple tried to elope. To effect her elopement, the princess staged a drowning, leaving her clothes in a pile on the shore of the Red Sea. Then she tried to escape with her lover from Jeddah airport, disguising herself as a man. They were caught, and both suffered the death penalty prescribed for adultery in Sa'udi Arabia's code of Islamic law.

Part 2 of the video clip   Part 3   Part 4   Part 5   Part 6   Part 7   Part 8   Part 9   Part 10   Part 11   Part 12   Part 13 not found (maybe at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kt_3yBCQ_ZY ?).

Read this docudrama's transcript here.