By C. Paixão
Princess Latifa background information
Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum is an Emirati Sheikha in Dubai and a member of the Dubai ruling family; a princess. She was born in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) on the 5th December, 1985. Princess Latifa is currently 35 years old, but first attempted to escape from Dubai in 2002, when she was only 16 years old.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum is Princess Latifa’s father; the Vice-President and the Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, and a ruler of the Emirate of Dubai. Sheikh Mohammed is responsible for the growth of Dubai into a global city and the launch of the following enterprises: Emirates Airline (the largest International airline in the United Arab Emirates), DP World (an Emirati multinational logistics company), and the Jumeirah Group (an Emirati international luxury hotel chain). He has 6 wives and 30 children.
One of his wives is Princess Latifa’s step-mother, Princess Haya bint Hussein. She is a graduate of the University of Oxford and an equestrian. She represented Jordan (an equestrian federation) at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. She is the daughter of King Hussein of Jordan and his third wife, Queen Alia. Princess Haya is Sheikh Mohammed’s second official wife, however, they got divorced in 2019.
The boat escape attempt
In 2002, when Latifa was 16, she first attempted to escape from Dubai, but it was only after reaching a French businessman, Herve Jaubert, in 2011 that a long-planned escape was attempted. Latifa’s initial capoeira instructor (a Brazilian martial art), Ms. Jauhiainen, from Finland, helped her plotting and later executing her escape plan.
On the 24th February, 2018, Latifa took a jet ski and an inflatable boat, along with Ms. Jauhiainen, to international waters. They would then meet with Mr. Jaubert, who was waiting for them in a US flagged yacht. Unfortunately, eight days later, off India, the boat was taken over by commandos. According to Ms. Jauhiainen, smoke grenades were released, forcing her and Latifa out of hiding. They had been previously hiding in the bathroom below the deck of the yacht. When forced out of hiding, they were held at gunpoint. Ms. Jauhiainen and the crew in the boat were released after 2 weeks being of detention in Dubai. Meanwhile, Latifa was taken back to Dubai.
Hostage and current situation
Latifa was captured on the 4th of March, 2018. She was taken to a small boat where she would later be taken to a private jet and fled back to Dubai. Latifa said that in this small boat there were 12-15 commandos and the two Emirati lieutenant sergeants. She was then approached by a man who held a pouch, where he took out a needle and injected her in the arm; she assumed it was tranquilisers. However, it didn’t take any effect upon her. Latifa said that when she was in the boat, she thought, “then I was like- okay assess your situation: your hands are tied, you have two guys sitting on you, you’re in the bottom of a small boat so just calm down, and there’s just no fighting at this point. So I just calmed down. …I said no, I am not going to voluntarily go.” After a while, in the boat, one of the commandos grabbed her arm and lifted her up. As she said, “I’m kicking and fighting, and he’s much bigger than me. So I see that his sleeve is rolled up and his arm is exposed. So I said: okay, you have one shot. So I bit him as hard as I could, and started to shake my head. He screamed.” After biting a commando, Princess Latifa was approached again by the same man with the needle. He injected her with tranquilisers and placed her on a stretcher. As they carried her up the stairs of the private jet, she passed out. When she regained her conscious, she found herself in Dubai again, where the private jet had already landed.
Since this day, she has been locked up in Dubai. Princess Latifa is now in a villa where she is being held hostage. This villa has been converted into a jail where all windows are barred shut and the only door she can lock is the bathroom. Latifa recorded a video explaining her situation as a hostage and describing her current conditions. In this video she explained her escape plan from 2018, her contacts, her situation, where she is now and what they are doing to her in the villa. She said there are 5 policemen outside and 2 policewomen with her inside the house. In the video, Latifa said “I can’t even go outside to get some fresh air”. She isn’t aware of when she will be released and what is going to happen to her once she is. She says she doesn’t know if she’s going to survive this situation and her situation is getting more desperate each day. The policemen have threatened her saying she will never leave the villa and see the sun again. Princess Latifa has been in this “jail villa” for over 1 year now and she is tired of this situation. “It is like a circus” she explains. She wants to be free and be released from the villa. “I am by myself in solitary confinement. No access to medical help, no trial, no charge, nothing.” The government of Dubai and the UAE have failed to respond to requests for comment from the BBC about Latifa’s current situation. They have always said “Latifa is safe in the loving care of her family in Dubai”. Most importantly, Latifa has said multiple times in her videos “I am a hostage”.
After recording videos of herself and explaining her conditions, she sent the video to the UN, hoping the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, watches the recordings and helps her in this unhuman situation. Latifa maintains in the house as a hostage, with a hidden phone, where she recorded all her videos, that was given to her before she was taken to the villa. The UN has been evaluating her conditions and has involved some nations. Such as the UK. The UK’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said “I am concerned with Dubai’s Princess, Latifa.” Britain has asked the UAE for proof that Latifa is “alive and well”, but, for now, has no intentions to pursue her case, or question the Emiratis.