The homophobic Brunei regime of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah today announced the death of 38-year-old Prince Azim, fourth in line to the throne. Despite a taboo on discussing the prince’s sexuality in Brunei, Azim lived as an openly gay man overseas. His father, who just a few years ago introduced harsh laws to oppress lesbian, gay and transgender Bruneians, nevertheless regarded Azim as his favourite son according to numerous local sources.
While Bruneiian authorities did not reveal a cause of death, sources within the country told QNews the prince had received treatment for liver cancer over a number of years.
Azim was the second son of Hassanal Bolkiah, Brunei’s authoritarian ruler. His mother was a former air hostess who became the Sultan’s second wife. He divorced her in 2003 and also stripped her of all royal titles. He then bestowed those titles on his new second wife.
Rumoured to have a net worth of over US$5 billion, Azim lived a jet-set life. He produced films and took an interest in fashion design. Often photographed with the rich and famous, he became famous for his extravagant parties.
In 2016, Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy posted a photo of himself, then-boyfriend Matthew Wilkas, and Caitlyn Jenner at one of the Azim’s parties. However, following unfavourable social media comment regarding Brunei’s harsh anti-LGBTIQ laws, Kenworthy deleted the image.
Lived a life denied the citizenry whose money paid for it
Prince Haji ‘Abdul ‘Azim bore no responsibility for his father’s despotic regime. Nor was he responsible for the anti-LGBTIQ laws introduced by his father. However, Azim lived a life of incredible extravagance, paid for by money plundered from the citizenry of his country. He was also able to live freely as a gay man, a right denied his fellow Bruneians.
Many LGBTIQ+ people of much lesser means, walked away from their families because of bigotry in Brunei and countless other countries. Yet, even with a $5 billion fortune, Azim never said a word. In fact, on frequent trips home he helped prop up the regime, attending royal events in expensive designer suits apparently without a care in the world.
Despite Azim’s silence, his nephew Prince Aleem shared an Instagram post criticising Brunei’s harsh Sharia Law on its introduction. However, the post was swiftly removed and Aleem has not been heard of since.
The silence regarding his sexuality echoes the hypocrisy on the death of Sultan Qaboos of Oman last year. Muslim leaders from around the world paid condolences to the much-admired leader, who they all knew was gay. Meanwhile the King of Morocco also allegedly remains at least domestically closeted.
Homophobic Brunei regime
Hassanal Bolkiah introduced Sharia Law in stages over recent years. In 2018, he decreed punishments including whipping and stoning to death for people found guilty of same-sex activity, adultery, and rape. After worldwide protests, he backed down and announced an amnesty on the death penalty. The laws, however, remain in place.
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