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Suleiman

Male harems in Saudi Arabia - The tradition of locking up rival princes

On Saturday 4 November 2017 Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman placed “30 of Saudi Arabia’s most senior figures, among them blood relatives of senior rulers,” as five-star prisoners at the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton, “accused of corruption”. [1] A year later most, possibly more, remained locked up and shaken down.[2] Many of them were billionaires. This must be the only country that locks up billionaires, especially if they are relatives of the ruler. The ‘corruption’ charge may be true, but it also serves as an excuse to control the activities of rivals to the throne and their supporters. Although such practices are not unknown in elites outside Islam,[3] this it is very traditional in the Ottoman Empire sense. Before the 16th century Ottoman rulers used to execute all their rivals. When Suleiman came to power in 1520 he commuted this to simply locking princes up in a big harem, where, “they were kept in a perpetual state of preadulthood, denied the right to marry or to father children by concubines.”

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