In a rare show of discord from the ranks of the Saudi royal family, Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz — one of the last sons of King Abdulaziz, the founder of the Middle Eastern kingdom — was heard to blame the monarchy's unpopular war in Yemen on current Saudi Arabian King Salman and his crown prince.
Reports issuing out of Prince Ahmed's camp on Friday reveal that the senior Saudi royal may be considering exile following his unprecedented remarks, according to UK-based Middle East Eye (MEE).
Although public shows of dissent in the Middle Eastern monarchy are harshly punished, a rising groundswell of discontent regarding the ongoing bloodshed in Yemen — including documented atrocities involving the targeting of schoolchildren and hospitals with US-built bombs and missiles — has many Saudi Arabians expressing their frustration.
In a video tweeted by MEE, Prince Ahmed — speaking outside his London residence — is heard responding to those protesting the war in Yemen that the whole House of Saud is not to blame for the ongoing violence.
"There are specific people who are responsible," the prince said, adding, "don't blame the entire family," cited by al-Jazeera.
When he was asked who, precisely, is responsible for the killings of innocents in Yemen, Ahmed — of one of the brothers of Riyadh's King Salman — stated that those responsible are "the king and his heir apparent."
"In Yemen and elsewhere, our hope is that the war ends today before tomorrow," he added, according to al-Jazeera.
So he confronted protesters telling them to blame King Salman and the Saudi Crown Prince instead pic.twitter.com/IzSY3tMs1Q— Middle East Eye (@MiddleEastEye) September 4, 2018
The tweet and the video quickly went viral and a furious debate ensued regarding evident discord within the Saudi royal family.
A statement — made shortly after the video was published — was quickly issued by Riyadh's official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) and was attributed to Prince Ahmed, claiming that the popular interpretation of the senior prince's remarks were "inaccurate," according to al-Jazeera.
"I have made it clear that the king and crown prince are responsible for the state and its decisions," the senior prince was said to have stated, according to the Saudi news agency.
"This is true for the security and stability of the country and the people," the statement continued, adding, "therefore, it is not possible to interpret what I said in any other way."
MEE, for its part, has claimed that Prince Ahmed is nonetheless standing by his original remarks, adding that, "He said the report by state controlled SPA was fake and that the words quoted by the agency were not his."
The senior Saudi royal has a history of bucking his superiors. As deputy interior minister of the interior, Prince Ahmed was sent to oversee the nation's enormous Eastern Province in 1979 following local rioting.
Learning firsthand of the conditions suffered by the Saudi Shi'ite minority population in the area, he advocated for marked social and infrastructure improvements, publicly noting that the Riyadh-based monarchy had ignored the region and was actively discriminating against its residents.