Dubai, UAE is a world-famous place teeming with prosperity and luxury, revered by many for its splendour. However, the news surfacing in open for the last few years tell us that behind the smokes and mirrors of affluence, there is denial of liberty to many. Likewise, this violation to right to freedom also extends to people as privileged as the ones born with a royal golden spoon.
‘The ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum ‘ordered and orchestrated’ the kidnapping of his daughter, Sheikha Latifa two years back after she tried escaping Dubai.‘ This was stated by a judgement of UK High Court in March.
But who is Sheikha Latifa and why has she been held captive for so long?
Family and Early Life
Born on December 5, 1985, Sheikha Latifa Bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is an Emirati princess and a member of the Dubai Royal Family. Her father Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is the ruler of Dubai and the Vice-President of UAE. Latifa’s mother Houria Ahmed Lamara hails from Algeria. She has two half-sisters of the same name. Her full sister Sheikha Shamsa was also abducted in the same way by their father from UK in 2000.
In 2000, Sheikha Shamsa attempted to seek a better life and escape restrictions on her in Dubai. She went off to UK in mid July and stayed there with her friends for a few weeks. However, her family found her and their men forcefully picked her up from Cambridge, UK.
Tiina Juahiainen and Herve Jaubert
Years later, Sheikha Latifa also tried escaping from her family for the same reasons. She was helped by her fitness instructor Tiina Juahiainen and a former French spy Herve Jaubert. Latifa met Juahiainen in late 2010 when she started giving her lessons in martial arts. Subsequently, she confided in Juahiainen about her attempts of escaping Dubai in 2002, followed by her imprisonment for three and a half years.
As she wasn’t allowed to leave Dubai and had no passport, she asked for Juahiainen’s help to escape from her father’s clutches. In 2017, Latifa along with Ms. Juahiainen plotted an extensive plan to escape from Dubai. She also contacted Herve Juabert, the author of Escape from Dubai to aid her in the plan. Juahiainen went to Philippines on multiple occasions to train herself.
After six months of plotting, they were ready to put their plan into action. On February 24, 2018, she disguised herself and both the women drove to Muscat, Oman. From there, they got onto jet skis and boarded the U.S flagged boat Nostromo in the international waters.
Unfortunately, Indian and UAE authorities intercepted them while the boat was approaching Goa, from where she hoped to fleet off to United States to seek asylum. “The last time (I saw her), she was kicking and screaming and she was dragged off the boat. Her pleas for asylum were ignored,” Ms. Jauhiainen told Reuters in an interview in London later.
UAE authority took her back to Dubai. They interrogated and threatened her partners as well. Latifa, just like Shamsa, wasn’t seen again in public after her capture. However, the Dubai Royal Court released a statement saying that she was fine at home, which was met with distrust among her well-wishers.
The media and human rights organisations raised their voices against this unlawful captivity by Mohammed Al-Maktoum. In the recent submission to the WGEID meeting, leading human rights QC Rodney Dixon concludes: “We are anxious to ensure that the UN takes all possible steps now to secure the safety, health and release.”
Consequently, United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) backed a complaint by the Free Latifa campaign. The WGEID found that the United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances ‘had been breached and that Dubai should be investigated and brought to justice.’ They also stated that adequate compensation should be given to Latifa.
A judgement in UK High court in March 2020 ruled that Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum had abducted Latifa — just as he had her elder sister Shamsa from England almost two decades earlier and subjected her to inhuman treatment.
Latifa’s Revelation Video
Before her arrest, she made a 39-minute long video. She informed her aides to release it when her life is in danger. Recorded at Jauhiainen’s apartment, she explained her family background and the circumstances leading to her decision to flee. In the video, she also accuses her father of maltreatment of her and her sister Shamsa. Shockingly, she also accused him of other serious charges, including murder.
In December 2018, BBC Two released a documentary Escape from Dubai: The Mystery of the Missing Princess on the investigation of Latifa’s disappearance after the capture.
Sugandha Bora is an intern with SheThePeople.