Speaking exclusively to Channel 4, Princess Alanoud Al Fayez said that her daughters, Princesses Sahar, Maha, Hala, and Jawaher, had a privileged childhood until the king decided to divorce their mother. The girls were then sequestered to a royal compound in Jeddah and assigned armed guards during trips outside the compound, but not allowed to leave the country.
Their mother, who says she hasn't seen them in-person for a decade but maintains contact via email and Twitter, reports "they are really in a terrible state, especially Jawaher and Sahar. She's telling me, 'Mummy, we are trying to hold on to our sanity.' They are hanging to life. They don't deserve what happened to them."
Princess Sahar described in an email to her mother how she perceives the status of women in Saudi:
"Women and children [in Saudi Arabia] are abused, while their male guardian enjoy privileges granted by the court in cases of domestic abuse. Princes and the elite entourage are protected and the victims and their families suffer injustice."
Their mother, who lives in London, is trying to secure their release. Her lawyers have requested access to the princesses and submitted a request for an inquiry to the United Nations Human Rights Commission. She publicly shamed her ex-husband, the king, and his brothers for their complicity in the detention.
The world must know my daughters jailers are deputy foreign minister their brother Abdaziz and the wannabe king brother Mutaeb. 1— Alanoud D. Alfayez (@AlanoudDAlfayez) March 12, 2014
Although detained in a royal compound, the princesses have exercised freedom of speech through social media, documenting their cloistered life via Twitter.
A glimpse of our so-called 'gilded cage', a stereotypical word, portraying fantasy world. We live amidst ruins. pic.twitter.com/0UCagKZThv— Sahar سحر (@Art_Moqawama) March 9, 2014
Daughter Jawaher -- days before her mother's story of her captive princess daughters broke -- was advocating for women's rights on the occasion of International Women's Day, celebrated annually on March 8.