I saw Death of a Princess years ago, but I was too young to appreciate the significance of its themes. What stands out for me is that her death is like a crucifixion but this time the central character is female. The princess becomes the symbol for all oppressed women. The princess will get justice eventually when Saudi Arabia treats women as co-equals with men.
This story is moving yet controversial because it is nothing other than Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" with a Saudi Arabian twist. Shakespeare did not invent Romeo and Juliet. The theme of Romeo and Juliet actually exists in many if not most cultures: Young and idealist lovers who cut across the social restrictions of their culture to bond in true love with tragic consequences. This story always pits the youthful, emotional and spiritual self against the keepers of the culture, often elders, who believe that the culture will disintegrate if such personal strivings are not thwarted. It's a universal theme which "Death of a Princess" certainly has successfully exploited.
All daughters are princesses. Even those parents who don't keep their daughter in a cage may one day come to say "where did we go wrong?" but they won't kill their princess. It's hard to believe that in 25 years this is all that Frontline has to offer about honor killings of Arab women when the rest of us know they happen all over the world including the USA and Great Britain. There is no shortage of conservative dinosaurs in the US who feel it is God's mission for them to tell women what to do with their bodies. Nor is it a surprise to see comments on your site by conservatives who hobknob with the Saudis. Hopefully one day Frontline will regain its independence.
As a Muslim man, it was very hard to digest this story, Even though it has nothing to do with Islam. Unfortunately, this sort of barbaric practice still exists to protect the family's honor in many parts of the muslim world.
Los Angeles, CA
The follow -up program on "Death of a Princess" was below your usual high standards. It was nearly a complete waste of time berift of content and new facts. For a while I thought I was watching one of those made for TV movies . Disconnected interviews; dramatic lighting effects showing half lit faces during interviews are more for a beginners class in movie making than a serious Frontline program.
Get off the kick of portraying and comparing the the Saudi women to so called higher civilized western types and the Saudi Goverment as backward and undemocratic. Compare it to America after only 70 some years as a country.
America should be thankful that we can get a tank full of Saudi oil from such a backward and despotic country.
Irvine , CA
this program drives home a very powerful message. The distinction between Islam and the customs. The world should stand up for the human right abuses in the name of customs/honor killing. and also the world should put some efforts to understand Islam so that they can differentiate those who use Islam for their own personal motives.
"Death of a Princess" carries many warnings. It shows how political power can play upon religion to gain public acceptance. Sound familiar? It exhibits fear of retrobution for not going along with the program. The low position women hold...not uncommon throughout the world. This presentation prompts us to look at our own societies...and wonder.
Thank you FRONTLINE for treating your viewers with respect and intelligence. Thank you for realizing our desire for knowledge. And, here's to your courage for reporting what others shy away from. "Death of a Princess" is a remarkable piece. I'm grateful to you for airing it again. I applaud you and Antony Thomas for this presentation.
Belen, New Mexico
What we have to understand before exploring other cultures is a concept called "diversity and difference." a culture not being like us does not mean that it is wrong until it imitates us.
Yes a women in the west got the chance to [push herself through men , to elect, .. to vote .. to shout to scream .. do what ever she wants ... but lets look at the other side of it. high precentage of rapes, women are sexual objects for the media , they bring money .. women dominate the market of pornography . women should always be sexy , hot , gorgous .. etc. that's how a women is supposed to be .
In Saudi Arabia they don't have these words for women. women are considered sisters, mothers and humans who are treated as humans .. not sexual objects .. and the family relations are very strong and over there ... is where you actaully find more cases of true love between husband and wife.
my whole Idea is that before attacking other cultures and talking about some of thier problems, we should adress our problems and accept that in every society we have pluses and minuses ..
I don't know , but I kinda got the impression that this film is so streotyped in its appraoch . and the other thing I didn't like is the saudi commentators. I don't think that they are right or honest in what they say ... they are looking at things from a westren eye and choosing them , when there are plenty of people who could explain better, draws lots of questions.
As a self-employed 50 year old conservative african american I can only feel a deep sense of sadness that even in this year of 2005 there are still people and countries who believe that this woman did something wrong.
All she wanted to do was be herself and because of that she was killed.
Customs and social norms are man-made not GOD-made.
In summary I believe that we need to live love and fulfill our purpose in life my understanding GOD directed laws not man-made laws.
As a Muslim Arab young women, i believe what happened to this "saudi princess" was just. she went against her customs, moral values and judgement. I do not, however, agree with the rules of treatment under the Saudi government of women. One problem in Saudi Arabia is that genders are so segregated, that whenever given the opportunity, they mingle and do inappropiate things. If they were allowed to interact with the opposite gender, then they would not feel the need to be "rebelious."
newport beach, california
I lived in Jeddah for ten years, from 1991 through 2001, and although I had heard about "Death of a Princess," I had never seen the film. I recognized some of the buildings and landmarks in the film.
I am gratified that one of the people Antony Thomas interviewed clearly pointed out that much of what one sees in Saudi Arabia is tribal behavior and has nothing to do with Islam. As an expatriot living in that country, I found that when I made a new friend from another Arab or Islamic country, he would quickly caution me not to make a judgment about Islam based on what I observed in Saudi Arabia.
I also want to encourage PBS to check its facts about the family tree for the House of Saud posted on this website. Saud was not the first of Abdul Aziz' sons. That was Turki, who died as a young man in a flu epidemic in Riyadh, thus allowing Sa'ud to become king upon the death of Abdul Aziz. Turki was born in 1900 and Sa'ud in 1902.
FRONTLINE's editors respond:
Yes, the writer is correct. We have changed the family tree on FRONTLINE's "House of Saud" web site to indicate that Prince Saud was the oldest 'surviving' son of Abdul Aziz. There are also a number of other brothers who, through seniority, would be in the line of succession, but have ruled themselves out, including the grandfather of the princess in "Death of a Princess". They're not listed either on the 'tree.' The family tree diagram is more of a schematic showing the line of succession than a full family tree.
This is first time i saw "Death of a Princess", after 25 years still the facts are unclear. It is hard to find facts in tribal society. Religion of royal Saudi's is not even a fundamental islam but is a hijacked version of islam, which teaches hate in general, disgrace and no respect to women. Royal family thinks all muslims other than royal family and their followers are infidels and subject to execution. They support this theoratically, practically and finacially.
After 9/11 this most controversial film in the history of public television, must have positive effects on royal saudis because they have no choice but have to democratise. At the same time USA government to put more pressure, on under pressure regime.
I congratulate PBS and Frontline for their stand and all that pressure.
What is extremely disturbing about Saudia Arabia is the royals want everything Western and yet when it comes to giving their people choices that is too much? Why create modern cities and watch satellite tvs or send children to the best schools in the West, if the West is so nefarious and devoid of morality? It seems our money is good enough in Saudi Arabia and little else.
There is such need to present Saudi Arabia as a pargon of morality by the royal family, where in their holy texts is it written that women should not see a doctor when ill without permission from a man or drive?Why is the Koran used as a means to defile and desecrate what is suppose to be holy in religion? The repression is on the backs of the half of the society to what end? Why should any society refuse to evaluate its own governing principals? The Saudis always wish to raise the spectre of immorality everywhere else but what about a people that use religion as repression?
The issue is not Islam or the tribe it is corruption and the need to hold onto power. The royal family does not want change it seeks absolute authority.If changes are made it would mean that ordinary common people could decide what they wanted for themselves and that would mean that everything would be called into question. There are traditional societies all over the world confronting modernity and deciding not to left behind.
If after all that has happened in the world in the last few years ( the events of 9/11, the brutal murders in Saudi Arabia by means of terror, the change of regime in Iraq);the Saudi people themselves do not see that fundamental changes must be made in their country, perhaps they deserve to be left behind.
Lastly, the CIA can no longer be used as an excuse for why the royal family chooses to repress its citizens. After all the administration has reached out to the rest of the world and encouraged people throughout the world to shape their own destinites.
So many of us Westerners are so lacking in understanding of Middle Eastern culture/norms/religious beliefs/legal system based on fundamental Islamic tenets (and in some areas, tribal laws), that I'm sure this program did come as a shock to many when originally aired 25 years ago. It was no less shocking to see it now, in light of the changes that have taken place in Saudi Arabia. On the one hand, I personally deplore the limitations traditionally placed on women of Islamic beliefs, but at the same time, the 'freedom' of Western culture hasn't been conducive to women's safety and freedom from assault and rape, either. It was interesting, and sad, to see one woman try to find her place - a balance - in the midst of a country largely holding conservative Islamic views and beliefs, and the opportunity to make her own life choices as taken for granted by Western women today..
I congratulate Antony Thomas for his vision and perseverance in making this film, after sifting tirelessly for the true story of this unfortunate princess. Kudos to PBS and Frontline for standing up for journalistic integrity and presenting this film, then and now, despite pressure to the contrary. Please don't EVER sacrifice that commitment for the sake of political pressure, or political 'correctness'.
To me the most compelling part of the film was the interview with the Saudi woman professor who pointed out the way attempts at reform in Saudi Arabia have been repressed for decades with the cooperation of the United States, among others. It's important to remember that we have a long and not always very noble history in the region when we wonder why things don't change or talk about "bringing" change now.
The other point that strikes me is the cliche that it's a question of "family" versus "individual." In fact it's not the "family" that is being preserved, which is, after all, half women--it's a certain way of organizing the family in which men have the power of life and death over women.