The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the world's most conservative societies, with capital punishment dealt out regularly for violations of religious moral codes. Saudi citizens have been killed by the state for things such as adultry, disobedience and political dissidence.
But these rules apparently do not apply to the children of wealthy Saudi elites, according to a US State Department communication published by secrets outlet WikiLeaks.
Instead of adhering to a strict behavioral code as most other Saudis do, the elite youths are fond of parties featuring staples of many high-dollar Western blowouts, like copious amounts of alcohol, cocaine and hashish, along with a few "working girls" to boot.
The document shows how, behind closed doors and away from the country's religious police, the rich stage elaborate parties and casually violate the very laws their government regularly, and many times brutally, upholds.
The revelation exposes a stunning duality in Saudi society that could provoke greater civil dissent as to how the nation is governed, at a time when many media critics have accused WikiLeaks of solely aiming to humiliate the US government with a cache of sensitive documents it lost control of.
Over the past year numerous stories have surfaced detailing a push-back against morals of old among Saudi women, a growing movement that came to a head in two instances where religious police were attacked after confrontations. In another such flare-up, from 2007, a Saudi woman sprayed a religious policeman in the face with pepper-spray while her friend filmed it on a cellphone.
The cable, which was marked "confidential," also noted that an American energy drink supplier had sponsored one particularly lavish party thrown by an unnamed Saudi prince. The company's name and the name of the party's organizers were withheld. There are more than 10,000 princes in Saudi Arabia, one of America's key allies in the Middle East.
"Saudi youth get to enjoy relative social freedom and indulge fleshly pursuits, but only behind closed doors -- and only the rich," the cable's unnamed author observed. "Parties of this nature and scale are believed to be a relatively recent phenomenon in Jeddah. One contact, a young Saudi male, explained that up to a few years ago, the only weekend activity was 'dating' inside the homes of the affluent in small groups.
"It is not uncommon in Jeddah for the more lavish private residences to include elaborate basement bars, discos, entertainment centers and clubs. As one high society Saudi remarked, 'The increased conservatism of our society over these past years has only moved social interaction to the inside of people’s homes.'"
Another recently leaked cable showed that the US believes Saudi financiers are still the chief supporters of Sunni militant groups like al Qaeda. A "Blue Ribbon" report on the 9/11 attacks had instead noted that al Qaeda raised money in Saudi Arabia but that no senior officials had provided material support.
President Obama recently provided a military aid package to Saudi Arabia estimated to be worth over $60 billion, according to the Pentagon. The package included the sale of advanced aircraft, such as F-15 fighter jets, and Apache and Black Hawk helicopters.
The complete cable was still available online mid-Wednesday. Saudi Arabia has over 27 million citizens, according to a recent estimate.