Where have the princesses of the United Arab Emirates gone?

Runaway princesses allegedly kidnapped by their father, allegations of forced marriage and subsequent divorce from one of the richest men in the world. Now the personal life of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Emir of Dubai who has long been close to Queen Elizabeth, is having geopolitical ramifications, with troubling questions hanging in the background: Is his daughter Latifa really free? Is his sister Shamsa still alive?

Posted on June 25, 2021

Luise Leduc

Luise Leduc
The press

Who is Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum?


PHOTO JUSTIN TALLIS, AGENCE FRANCE PRESS ARCHIVE

Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (left) with his former wife Haya Bint al Hussein, Prince Edward and Queen Elizabeth during a horse race at Ascot Racecourse near London in 2016

Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Emir of Dubai, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates for 15 years, is one of the richest rulers in the world, according to the magazine forbes, with an estimated fortune of $5.5 billion in 2010. In addition to owning a large collection of paintings, he is considered the largest horse owner in the world (around 4000). Hence the friendship with Queen Elizabeth (who is crazy about horse racing herself), with whom he was often photographed. On the family side, the emir married six times, by the age of 70 he would have been a father thirty times.

Escape and kidnapping of princesses

In 2002, one of his daughters, Shamsa, tried to flee the United Arab Emirates to Oman. She was reportedly kidnapped, taken back to her home country and imprisoned in her father’s palace for nine years. Since then she has not been seen in public. In 2018, it was her sister, Princess Latifa’s turn, then in her early 30s, to try to escape the emirate aboard a private yacht, accompanied by a Finnish friend and a French entrepreneur. After eight days at sea, a squad of about fifteen men will catch up with Princess Latifa, put her on a helicopter and then on a private plane to take her back to Dubai, a move Amnesty International will condemn. In February, Princess Latifa revealed in a video that she had been held hostage by her father for three years, locked in a villa “turned into a prison” and fearing for her life. Dubai’s ruling family replies that, on the contrary, Latifa is “being cared for at home” and “her condition is improving”. The UN then required the United Arab Emirates to prove she was alive before withdrawing its request in May.

An explosive divorce

The Sheikh’s last wife is Haya Bint al Hussein, daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan. Educated at some of the UK’s most prestigious institutions, she graduated from Oxford University and traveled the world as a UN Messenger of Peace and a passionate advocate for wife emancipation. Spring 2019 surprise. Unlike every year, Haya is not at Ascot, a prestigious English horse race she attends year after year with her husband, in the royal box alongside Queen Elizabeth, Charles and Camilla. And for a good reason. Fearing for her safety and that of her children – she accuses the Emir of wanting to marry her eleven-year-old daughter to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia – Haya Bint al Hussein files for divorce after 15 years of marriage. She fled first to Germany, then to England, of which she is a citizen. Her ex-husband will say in a poem on Instagram that his wife cheated on him.

Kidnappings reappear

The British royal family is thus in the unfortunate position of being stuck between two ex-boyfriends, Madame is on her territory in Kensington Palace Gardens (an area with embassies and wealthy residences) and Monsieur, who runs the United Arab Emirates, with whom England maintains close diplomatic and economic ties. In connection with the divorce proceedings, the kidnappings of Shamsa and Latifa (who are not Haya’s daughters) resurfaced when an English judge ruled that the Sheikh “ordered” and “organized” their kidnapping.

Suddenly Princess Latifa reappears


PHOTO BY INSTAGRAM, VIA REUTERS

Princess Latifa (centre) with two other women, possibly at a Dubai mall, in an undated photo posted to Instagram in May

But now Latifa has reappeared in photos posted on Instagram in recent days. Speaking of lawyers, she said she “recently visited three European countries for a holiday with a friend. I asked him to put some photos on the internet to prove to the activists that I can travel wherever I want.” “Now I hope to be able to live my life in peace, without being watched by the media. And thank you all for your concern,” she added. The London-based Free Latifa campaign was pleased in a statement on Monday “to see that Latifa appears to have a passport to travel and enjoy greater freedom”.

With Agence France-Presse

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