Saudi king’s brother ‘considers exile’ after criticizing war against Yemen
SANA’A – Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, younger brother of Saudi king Salman, is reportedly considering self-imposed exile in order to protect his own safety, after footage was released of the prince openly criticizing the his brother and nephew, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for their leading role in the war of aggression against Yemen.
The 75-year old Prince Ahmed, who formerly fulfilled the role of Deputy Minister of the Interior from 1975 until 2012, made a couple of fiery remarks on the Saudi invasion of Yemen during a visit to London earlier this week. As a protest against the Saudi regime, organised mainly by Yemeni and Bahraini demonstrators, was taking place outside his London residence, the prince was filmed walking up to the crowd.
Upon hearing chants of “Death to al-Saud”, prince Ahmed replied: “Why are you saying this about al-Saud? What does the whole of the al-Saud family have to do with this? There are certain individuals who are responsible. Don’t involve anyone else.”
When pressed to specify his statement, the prince rather bluntly stated: “The king and the crown prince, and others in the state.”
While officially, the Saudi Press Agency has stated that the prince’s words were “wrongly interpreted”, a source close to Ahmed confirmed on Saturday to the Middle East Eye that the former Deputy Minister stands by his words and refuses to repeal his statement. If true, this would mark the first time that a high-ranking member of the royal family of Saudi Arabia openly criticizes the Saudi regime’s destructive role in both the war against Yemen, and the massacre of Shia citizens and pro-democracy protesters in neighbouring Bahrain.
The maverick move from Ahmed bin Abdulaziz is however not entirely surprising. The prince made headlines in 2017 when his brother, King Salman, broke with a long-lasting tradition by personally appointing his son, Muhammad bin Salman (MBS) to the position of designated heir, instead of his other brother Muhammad bin Nayef. Prince Ahmed openly refused to acknowledge the appointment, and declined to pledge allegiance to MBS.
After the video of Prince Ahmed’s statement on the war against Yemen spread online, it inspired a trending hashtag on Saudi social media, reading “We pledge allegiance to Ahmed Abdulaziz as king.”
The Middle East Eye news agency however also reported that the prince may be considering self-imposed exile, and does not wish to return to Saudi Arabia. This would likely be a sound decision, as King Salman and MBS have repeatedly cracked down on any possible sign of dissent, even within the royal family and the clergy. Just last week, it was revealed that the Saudi prosecutor will be seeking the death penalty for influential Sunni cleric Sheikh Salman al-Awdah, for the “crime” of having written a message on social media wishing for rapprochement between Riyadh and Qatar.