1992 Press Release from William Morrow & Co. on the book,
Princess: A True Story of Life Behind
The Veil in Saudi
She has wealth beyond belief—four mansions on three continents, her own private jet, a priceless collection of gold and jewelry; yet she is treated as a slave by her husband and forced to cover her body from head to toe in the customary black “abbaya.” She is a Saudi Arabian royal princess who exposes the barbaric customs of her country in PRINCESS: A TRUE STORY OF LIFE BEHIND THE VEIL IN SAUDI ARABIA.
”Sultana” whose real name cannot be used for fear of death for revealing these secrets to the West, urged her longtime American friend, Jean Sasson, bestselling author of THE RAPE OF KUWAIT to write about her life. Together they have finally lifted the black veil of secrecy that hides women in the fabulously wealthy land where thirteen year old girls are married against their will to men five times their age; where young women are drowned or stoned to death for a mere indiscretion; where women cannot travel without their husband’s permission; where men rule as gods and the birth of a female goes unrecorded.
Jean spent twelve years in
Saudi Arabia observing first-hand the hardships faced by the women.
She recorded Sultana’s life with the help of secret diaries kept
by Sultana since childhood and hours of clandestine conversations.
Jean spent twelve years in Saudi Arabia observing first-hand the hardships faced by the women. She recorded Sultana’s life with the help of secret diaries kept by Sultana since childhood and hours of clandestine conversations.
The result is shocking and fascinating. I urge you to interview Jean when she comes to your city so that American men and women can understand the chains that bind these Arab women to a feudal system that is a violation of international human rights.
NEWS FROM MORROW
“Anyone with the slightest interest in human rights will find this book heart wrenching. It is a well-written, personal story that compels the reader to awareness of human rights violations in Saudi Arabia, the true role designated to women by men, even in wealthy families, in that country. The issues addressed by this admirably courageous woman stay with the reader long after the story if finished.”
Betty Mahmoody, Author of NOT WITHOUT MY DAUGHTER
A member of the royal family of Saudi Arabia offers an unprecedented view of how primitive traditions and religious laws relegate the women of her country to near-slave status in PRINCESS: A TRUE STORY OF LIFE BEHIND THE VEIL IN SAUDI ARABIA (William Morrow & Co., inc.; September 15; $20.00.) Princess Sultana, as she is called in the book, cannot reveal her real name for fear that she would be put to death for exposing the systematic and barbaric oppression of Saudi women through sex slavery, physical abuse, execution and even starvation. Yet she has told her story to Jean Sasson, a longtime friend and the bestselling author of THE RAPE OF KUWAIT, in the hope that its publication will bring about positive changes for her Muslim sisters throughout the Arab world.
Born in to an extremely wealthy family, Princess Sultana today enjoys almost unbelievable material luxury, with four mansions on three continents, her own private jet, and jewelry worth millions. Nevertheless, she has been a virtual slave all her life, suffering under the capricious control of male relatives with life-and-death power over her. “I was born free,” she writes, “yet today I am in chains…I am one of those women who were ignored by their fathers, scorned by their brothers, and abused by their husbands.”
Princess Sultana relates the story of her own life, from her turbulent childhood to her arranged marriage, as well as shocking episodes from the lives of her ten sisters, her friends, and her servants. She tells of the forced marriage of her beautiful, brilliant teenage sister Sara to a man four times her age, who subjected Sara to unspeakable sexual sadism. She writes of the friend of another sister, whose punishment for having an affair with an American man was being confined to an isolation chamber in her own home until she went mad. She tells of a young girl who was raped by a group of boys, became pregnant, and was stoned to death shortly after giving birth because the boys convinced the girl’s father that she had enticed them into having sex.
Sultana’s own marriage, at first happy, soured after her relatively progressive and sensitive husband announced that he planned to take an additional wife—a common practice among Saudi men. Sultana, who had lost a breast to cancer just a year before, spirited her children off to Europe and demanded that her husband drop his plans to take another wife. After five months, he relented, and Sultana’s marriage began to heal. A few years later, however, she contracted a venereal disease form her husband, who eventually admitted that he picked it up during weekly orgies with prostitutes flown in from Paris.
These incidents are not isolated outrages, Sultana emphasizes, but regular events in a society that views women as the bearer of sons or as sex objects, a society in which the birth of a girl is so insignificant that it goes unrecorded. As a young girl, Sultana witnessed her own teenage brother and his friend raping an eight-year-old Egyptian girl, whose services that had bought from the girl’s impoverished mother. One of the most disillusioning moments in Sultana’s life came when she learned that her father regularly traveled to the Philippines and Thailand for sex with prostitutes.
Although much of Sultana’s story is grim, she also portrays moments of joy. She depicts the easy camaraderie, humor, and love among her mother, sisters, and female servants, as well as the satisfying occasions when she gets secret revenge on her insufferable brother. She recalls fondly the blossoming of romantic love in the early years of her marriage, and rejoices in her children, who she hopes will help lead her country into a new era of equality between women and men.
With excitement, Sultana also tells how the presence of female American soldiers in Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf War posed the greatest challenge to the oppression of Saudi Arabian women in many years. Unfortunately, rather than loosening restrictions on women in the aftermath of war, Saudi authorities have actually tightened them. In the West, the Gulf War raised questions about the ethics of supporting a Saudi government that violates the most basic human rights of half its citizens. At the same time, it also sparked new curiosity about the enigmatic and secluded life of Muslim women.
In PRINCESS, a young woman of great courage and spirit at last lifts the veil of Islamic culture to give a rare account of the secret agonies suffered by the women of a fabulously wealthy and mysterious nation.
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