Dubai: Princesses on the run

In recent years, two young princesses have tried to escape their father, the all-powerful emir of Dubai Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, during painful episodes worthy of a thriller, and finally aborted. Today, his sixth wife, Princess Haya, who is on the run in London, seeks protection in British justice.
In this strategic Gulf country, the United Arab Emirates, this “rebel princess” business has hit the headlines and angered at the highest level in Dubai, the ultra-protective business of the ruling family. This city-state carefully manages its image abroad as a major international financial center and luxury paradise for tourists with its gigantic shopping malls and ever-more sophisticated skyscrapers.

But this summer, Princess Haya, 45 years old and sixth wife of the Emirati ruler since their marriage in 2004, created the sensation by fleeing her 70-year-old husband to London.

She has since launched an unprecedented procedure against her husband, asking Tuesday before the Family Court judge of the High Court of Justice in London to benefit from a measure of protection against a forced marriage that could affect one of the children of the couple.

She also asked for protection against bullying and claimed custody of her children.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, for his part, claims the return of his children to the Emirates.

The hearing in London’s high court, scheduled over two days, continued Wednesday.

Born and raised in Jordan, Haya was educated in the private schools of the British elite and graduated from Oxford. She presents herself as the incarnation of the modern Muslim woman.

“Golden prison”

“Women must be aware of their strength,” she said in 2016 to an Emirati women’s magazine.

“The Dubai ruler writes poetry on his broken heart by the departure of his wife Princess Haya, but given the treatment he gives to his two daughters in prison, he seems to tolerate women only when they remain confined in their golden jail “, responded in early July on Twitter the director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), Ken Roth, referring to princesses Latifa and Shamsa, daughters of the emir.

These princesses have tried in the past to escape, but have been less fortunate.

In March 2018, 32-year-old Latifa al-Maktoum announced in a YouTube video that she wanted to flee her country.

On the verge of tears, she says she was “tortured” and “imprisoned for three years” by her father after a first escape attempt when she was only a teenager in 2002, criticizing a “father who does not think only in his image “and that” destroyed the lives of so many people “.

“I make this video in case it fails,” she said. The video was published because the attempt, worthy of a thriller in troubled waters and launched on February 24, 2018 has indeed failed spectacularly.

With the help of a Finnish friend, the princess managed to leave the city-state to discreetly embark off Oman, a neighboring sultanate, on an American sailboat. But during the night of March 4 to 5, in the international waters off Goa, the Nostromo is boarded by the Indian Navy, told AFP a French, Hervé Jaubert, the owner of the boat, and the Finnish friend , Tiina Jauhiainen.

The two foreigners say they were brought back to Dubai, imprisoned in secret facilities and then expelled. On the other hand, the Princess has not since been publicly manifested and would still be in Dubai.

The government in Dubai finally broke its silence on this incredible affair on April 17, 2018, confirming that the princess had been “brought back” to her family and that she was “well”.


Contacted by AFP on Wednesday, the UK-based organization Detained in Dubai, which claims to provide legal assistance to victims of injustice in the UAE, said the “situation of princesses Haya and Latifa highlighted serious misconduct and even the legalized abuses of the UAE’s justice system, particularly with regard to women’s rights “.

In her video of March 2018, Latifa explained that she was marked by the destiny of her older sister, Princess Shamsa, also daughter of the Emir of Dubai. At only 18, Shamsa, who was born in 1981, attempted to flee her father in 2000 while on vacation in England.

According to the story of Latifa, the girl was found after two months of flight, “drugged”, returned to Dubai in a private jet and “locked up”. “She has no freedom … she is surrounded by nurses and she has to take medication that controls her thoughts,” said Latifa.

The Emirates hosted a World Summit on Tolerance in November 2018, which has been criticized by human rights organizations as hypocrisy given the country’s record, which according to these NGOs has imprisoned several human rights activists. including Ahmed Mansoor, sentenced in 2018 to ten years in prison, and academic Nasser Bin Ghaith, who was also sentenced to ten years in prison in 2017.

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