The Red Prince of Saudi Arabia - TAHA KILINÇ

The Red Prince of Saudi Arabia

Last Sunday, there was a crowded funeral prayer in Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh’s Imam Turki bin Abdullah Mosque with attendees of the highest level. King Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s chief Mufti Abdulaziz Al- Sheikh, former Chief of Intelligence Prince Turki al Faisal and other prominent figures, as well as many representatives from other countries, attended the funeral. It was the funeral of Prince Talal bin Abdulaziz. The level of representation and the scale of it all showed the position of Prince Talal, who lost his life at the age of 87, inside and outside the country.

The funeral ceremony also revealed interesting details for those who want to understand the reflections of the internal balances of the royal family. Prince Walid bin Talal, who was arrested on “charges of corruption” and kept in detention for three months, after carrying his father’s casket with his brothers Khalid and Abdelaziz, seemed very close with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Walid bin Talal, who is one of the richest persons in the world, shared a photo of himself hugging the crown prince right after he was released. This photo was a sign of Prince Walid’s submission to the crown prince, who is around the same age as his son. His freedom was given in exchange for huge amounts of ransom money and full submission to the prince. Walid’s brother Khalid, on the other hand, preferred to stand aside during the funeral, probably because he was released months after his older brother.

The most interesting figure among the high level attendees, no doubt, was Prince Ahmad, who is the only brother of King Salman from the same mother and father. Prince Ahmad, who greeted his brother with great respect and never left his side, also had a quick word with Crown Prince Mohammed. Analyzing their body language from the photos, it seems that it was the crown prince who wanted to speak. Prince Ahmad, who is shown as the leader of the rival clique to Mohammed bin Salman within the family, left his country and lived in London for a while right before journalist Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated in Istanbul. While there were speculations on the headlines in the West claiming that he is trying to ascend to the throne, Prince Ahmad remained silent, and after Khashoggi was killed he returned to his country. It is hard to understand what kind of negotiations there are within the royal family, but there is no doubt that Prince Ahmad is seen as a “potential figure of political opposition.”

While the funeral prayer of Prince Talal bin Abdelaziz, who made history by carrying out an active opposition against the royal government, was being carried out, it is not hard to predict that bin Salman was happy to be rid of an important and formidable rival. We will see what kind of a strategy Prince Ahmad, the other “potential danger,” will follow.

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During the days when the power struggle between the crown prince of the time, Faisal, and his brother King Saud was being discussed again, Prince Talal left the country with a group of other princes and moved to Egypt’s capital, Cairo. This was not an ordinary action. A movement which was later dubbed as the “Free Princes Movement” was being organized in the city, and its leadership was assumed by Prince Talal. Talal, who spent most of his time between Cairo and Beirut, demanded the introduction of “constitutional monarchy” in Saudi Arabia, a reform of women’s rights and ending the influence of the religious leaders in the country, as well as defending the democratization of the country. His escape from the country and his stance against his family would later earn him the title of the “Red Prince.”

The oppositional movement which was eagerly supported by then-Egyptian President Jamal Abdel Nasir, officially ended when the battleships belonging to the Egyptian navy bombed the southern coastal cities of Saudi Arabia in 1964. Talal and those with him were officially pardoned by King Faisal, who ascended to the throne after his brother Saud, and thus they returned to their country.

Talal became a part of the highest Sunni elites of Lebanon, the little country of the Arab world, after marrying the daughter of its first Prime Minister Riyadh Sulh, and his son Walid was born from this marriage. Throughout his long life, he has always been interested in all the important developments in the Middle East in one way or another. While his son Walid’s enormous fortune created an area of maneuver for him, he did not step back from his “reformist” calls until his death. The public opinion last heard of Prince Talal’s name when he started a hunger strike after his sons Khalid and Walid were arrested.

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Prince Talal bin Abdulaziz, right before he passed away, witnessed one of his nephews, Mohammed bin Salman’s attempt to alter the fundamental codes of the kingdom under the guise of “reform” claims. The magical word “reform,” which is capable of bearing all kinds of intentions and actions with it, in this case, became synonymous with concentrating power, corruption, and domination. To put it in Talal’s words, maybe the word “reform” was just a pawn fed to the public for power to be retained.…

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