In Saudi Arabia, Is Homosexuality as 'Humiliating' as Murder?

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Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Nasir al Saud, the grandson of the King of Saudi Arabia, is currently standing trial for murdering his 32 year-old servant. The court alleges that the murder was sexually motivated and that the prince had a romantic relationship with the male servant.

This led Sholto Byrnes, columnist for the British newsweekly The New Statesman, to wonder what is more "embarrassing" for the super-wealthy Saudi royal family: that a member committed murder, or that he may be gay. Byrnes quickly concludes that homosexuality is just as bad as homicide. "Just as humiliating for the Royal family will be the revelations that Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Nasir al Saud, who is King Abdullah's grandson, is homosexual."

The news that a Saudi prince is on trial in London for killing an aide who it appears was also his gay lover will be enormously embarrassing to the government back in Riyadh. Saudis dislike bad publicity intensely, and especially when it involves a case as horrific as a princely murder - as we in Britain should know well.

To be fair, Byrnes is not saying that he himself finds homosexuality just as objectionable as murder. He writes, "Officially this 'vice' is not tolerated, and sodomy is punishable by death. This is in line with a society that likes to insist on its version of the truth and airbrush awkward episodes from the official record." Byrnes concludes by suggesting that it is the gay men of Saudi Arabia, not misbehaving royals or Saudi elites who brutalize servants (which is all too common) or even would-be murders, who should learn a valuable lesson.

Prince Saud's story will soon be known. Perhaps some of those reading it will shudder, and give thanks that nothing similar happened to them – after all, they may have already met him online.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.