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Kidnapped and locked up: Princesses in a golden cage

Updated March 16, 2021, 4:48 p.m.

  • They fought for a self-determined life and their rights.
  • As a countermeasure, they were drugged and held under house arrest.
  • For years there was no public sign of life.

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The story of Princess Latifa bint Muhammad Al Maktum from Dubai recently hit the headlines again when a new video of the daughter of Sheikh Muhammad bin Raschid Al Maktum surfaced online. The 35-year-old has been held under house arrest since she tried to escape in 2018. The princess is not alone with this fate. She shares it with other women – including from her own family. Here are the most famous falls.

Latifa bint Muhammad Al Maktum

“It could be the last video of me. If I don’t get out of here alive, there will be at least one video,” with these words Latifa begins the video recorded in 2018 with a cell phone, which lasts almost 40 minutes and makes your blood run cold leaves. The clip was recorded shortly before she tried to escape from a secret location. It tells not only about the fate of her sister Shamsa and her failed attempt to escape, but also her own story. Latifa is said to have been imprisoned for 3 years and 4 months.

“It could be the last video of me. If I don’t get out of here alive, there will be at least one video,” Latifa began the video recorded in 2018 with a cell phone with these words. © YouTube

In the video, she describes how she was beaten and tortured for hours, saw no daylight for days, had to sleep on a dirty mattress and received no medical care. She was only given rice to eat and was guarded around the clock. After her “release” she forged escape plans, which she wanted to put into practice in February 2018 with the help of her Finnish trainer Tiina Jauhiainen and the former French secret service officer Christian Elombo. They were supposed to go via Oman on jet skis to a yacht and then via India to the USA in order to apply for asylum there. But the escape failed. The yacht was provided by the Indian coast guard, masked and armed men stormed the ship, dragged the princess out of her cabin and took her away.

For nine months there was no sign of life from Latifa. Representatives of the United Nations and human rights organizations put pressure on Dubai until Latifa’s stepmother Haya bint al-Hussein organized a meeting with former Irish President and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson in December 2018. It was her only public appearance. After that, it disappeared completely from the scene again – until last month. In the video that was leaked to the BBC, Latifa tells of her house arrest and that she worries for her life every day.

Also read: Ireland’s ex-president regrets naivety about Princess Latifa’s situation

Shamsa bint Muhammad Al Maktum

There has been no sign of life from Princess Latifa’s older sister since 2000. The now 39-year-old fled her father’s property there during a trip to England and went into hiding – for two months. Then she was picked up by her father’s employees, dragged into a car and taken back to Dubai via France. During the two short months in “freedom”, she was in contact with Latifa all the time. “I was 14 years old and in Dubai with my mother and my other sisters. Shamsa fled because she had no freedom. Things that other people take for granted, such as traveling, driving a car or making decisions about their own future We don’t have these freedoms, “explains Latifa in a 2018 video about her sister’s escape. Since then, says Latifa, she has been locked in a house and is being watched by her father. But not only that. According to Latifa’s statement, she should also be pumped full of pills there, which would turn her into a “zombie”.

Basmah bint al-Saud

For two years the Saudi princess has been held without charge in the maximum security prison Ha’ir, where terror suspects and enemies of the state are usually held. Usually members of the royal family are only placed under house arrest. Why the 57-year-old Basmah is in prison is still unknown. It is believed that it was their reform ideas and their courage that put them in this position. Basmah campaigned for a constitutional monarchy and human rights and fought against the oppression of women in their homeland. She wrote books, voiced her opinion publicly, wrote articles for newspapers and blogged. The youngest daughter of King Saud bin Abdulaziz, who is said to have over 100 children, was arrested in March 2019. At the time, she allegedly wanted to travel to Switzerland to have her heart disease treated. Her youngest daughter Suhud has also been missing since then. Since April 2020, it is said that her supporters have no longer been able to contact Basmah.

Haya bint al-Hussein

What she succeeded, the other princesses can only dream of. Princess Haya, a daughter of the late Jordanian King Hussein I. From 2004, she was the sixth concubine of the Emir of Dubai. Princess Haya has two children with Muhammad bin Raschid Al Maktum. In July 2019, she fled with them to the UK and applied for divorce, protection from forced marriage for their two children, and protection from physical assault for themselves. In February 2020, the London High Court convicted the emir of kidnapping Shamsa Al Maktum and Latifa Al Maktum, torturing one of his daughters, and intimidating Haya bint al-Hussein. He himself rejected the allegations and said that as head of government he was unable to take part in the negotiations, which is why the process and verdict were very one-sided.

Sources used:

  • Tagesschau: “Great Britain worries about Princess Latifa”
  • BBC: Princess Latifa: ‘Hostage’ ordeal of Dubai ruler’s daughter revealed
  • Süddeutsche Zeitung: “It was a king’s daughter”
  • BBC News: “What has happened to Princess Latifa?”
  • #FreeLatifa Official: “Sheikha (Princess) Latifa Al Maktoum – FULL VIDEO – Escape from Dubai – #FreeLatifa”
  • “Haya bint al-Hussein – kidnapping, torture, intimidation: court confirms the allegations against the ex”

Princess Latifa is held captive by her own father, the Emir of Dubai. In a video message, she said she was afraid for her life. (Image: picture alliance) © ProSiebenSat.1

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