‘I Won’t Rest Until She’s Free’

Radhika Sanghani
August 2019, Marie Claire Australia

Tiina Jauhiainen tried to help her best friend, Emirati Princess Latifa, escape from her stifling existence as the daughter of Dubai’s ruler. But in a dramatic intervention at sea, the princess was captured and returned to the UAE. A year later, Tiina is campaigning for her freedom, reports Radhika Sanghani.

Tiina Jauhiainen is looking down at her now-cold tea. “I wish I’d said something to her when they were taking her away,” she says. We are in a cafe in central London, but Tiina’s mind is 8000km away in the Arabian Sea, reliving the night of March 4, 2018, when she attempted to help her best friend escape from her family. “There were guns everywhere. Latifa was screaming and kicking. But I was paralysed with fear. I couldn’t say a word.” She pauses. “I just wish that I’d said, ‘I’m sorry this has failed.’ That I’d told her I love her.”

That was the last time that Tiina, 42, saw Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum, the 33-year-old daughter of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai and the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates. The women were captured and separately taken back to Dubai – the emirate from which they had been trying to escape. But while Tiina was released after a fortnight, Latifa’s whereabouts are still unknown.

In a meticulously planned escape attempt that Latifa had been plotting for seven years, the women fled Dubai via car, dinghy, jet skis and a yacht, with the goal of making it to India. From there, Latifa could fly to the US and claim asylum.

“People think, ‘She’s a princess, how bad could her life be?'” says Tiina. “She did have access to money, but that was just a distraction from her reality. She wasn’t allowed to study, to work, to travel – or even go to a friend’s house. She had curfews. She was treated like a child. She used to get depressed if she had to spend a day at home. She didn’t even call her home a home. She called it a house and hated it.

Tiina Jauhiainen; Emirate of Dubai