This post was first published in 2013.
In October 2010, Prince Saud Abdulaziz bin Nasser Al Saud was sentenced to at least twenty years in prison for killing his Sudanese servant, Bandar Abdulaziz, in a sexually motivated assault. The Saudi prince had treated Bandar as his possession, to do as he pleased – which he did, with sexual and physical impunity. Last week, it was announced that, under a transfer agreement, the prince will go home to Saudi Arabia where he will serve out the rest of his sentence. As part of the deal, five Britons languishing in Saudi jails will be allowed to serve out their prison sentences in the UK.
The death of Bandar Abdulaziz, the Sudanese sex slave, who was murdered by the Saudi prince, was the end of a tragic, wretched, pain-filled life for him. Bandar was ‘adopted’ from an orphanage by a Saudi family. His tragic life mirrored that of hundreds of other children caught up in the poverty and conflict in the Sudan and other parts of Africa, who find themselves in the Middle East. It is a story also told by Mende Nazir, in her memoir, Slave, which detailed her experience of being captured by the janjaweed from her home in the Nubian Mountains and, sold to an Arab family as a slave in Khartoum. She worked for them for 12 years and was so dehumanised that as a fellow Muslim, she wasn’t even allowed to say her five daily prayers because as a black person, she was too lowly to pray to the same God as her Arab family.
Africa has been haemorrhaging children like Bandar out of the continent, to serve as servants in the Middle East, for many years. Driven to desperation by poverty, parents give their children away to traffickers, who tell them of the wonderful life that awaits their children abroad, not knowing that they are condemning them to a life of slavery, in countries not unknown for their treatment of those that are darker-skinned. Indeed, they are not to know of the likelihood that they will never see their children again.
Speaking about the Bandar case, Debbie Ariyo, Director, Africans Unite against Child Abuse (AFRUCA) says: ‘Unfortunately, Bandar’s case is not the exception. The truth is that there are many more African Bandars in the Middle East whose stories will never be told because they cannot speak for themselves.’
Last week, when I heard that the Saudi prince was going to ‘serve out the remainder of his sentence at home’, all I could think about was Bandar, the Sudanese slave he’d killed. What about justice? What about him? Does anyone care?
I remembered Bandar’s story when it broke in 2010. I wept over his photo, which I’d downloaded. Even as I write this, tears fill my eyes. What a Iife he must led. What pain he must endured. Did anyone mourn him on that cold February day when his dead body was discovered, or was his death seen as an inconvenience by the prince and his facilitators? I also wondered about the lives of other Africans who are still in these countries, unable to go back to the continent they were trafficked out of as children, and condemned to a life of servitude to those they serve.
The tale of Prince Saud Abdulaziz bin Nasser Al Saud and Bandar Abdulaziz revealed the hidden world of Saudi Arabia’s ‘invisibles’. At the trial, the police spoke of the wall of silence that met them in Saudi Arabia when they asked for information about Bandar’s background.
Key questions remain: Who was Bandar Abdulaziz? What was his real Sudanese name, if indeed he was actually Sudanese as no one is actually sure which part of Africa he’s from? How did he end up in Saudi Arabia? What about his family in Africa?
Questions and, I fear no answers.
Oh, Bandar, I did not know you. But, I want to tell you that your life was not a worthless one. I want you to know that you were mourned. I want you to know that you were and are still precious in the eyes of God. And, finally, I hope and pray that you are finally at peace.
Read the police report detailing the extent of Bandar’s physical and sexual injuries and assualts at the hands of Prince Saud Abdulaziz bin Nasser.