Mary Robinson’s friend Princess Haya seeks asylum

Mark Tighe
June 30, 2019, The Sunday Times

Human rights campaigners call on Princess Haya to speak out on her stepdaughter Latifa’s fate in Dubai

Princess Haya is reported to have left her husband of 15 years, Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, and to have sought political asylum in Germany (MARK CUTHBERT)

Human-rights campaigners who have supported Princess Latifa of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have urged Princess Haya, her stepmother, to speak out about conditions in Dubai after she reportedly fled to Germany.

Princess Haya, a long-time friend of Mary Robinson, the former Irish president, is reported to have left Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, her husband and the prime minister of the UAE, and sought political asylum in Germany.

In January, Haya, who worked in stud farms in Ireland in the 1990s, spoke on RTE Radio defending the way her stepdaughter, Latifa, was being treated in Dubai. This followed Latifa’s attempt to escape from the UAE in a yacht, which was foiled by armed forces.

Haya arranged for Robinson to fly to Dubai last December and to be photographed with a vacant-looking Latifa at a private meal, to provide the first public evidence that Latifa was still alive. She had insisted her stepdaughter’s welfare was a private family matter.

Haya, daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan, is one of six wives of Dubai’s ruler, who has over 30 children.

Al-Maktoum, her husband of 15 years, has extensive business interests in Ireland where he owns studs and stables in Meath, Kildare and Tipperary and he also financially supports the Islamic mosque and cultural centre in Clonskeagh, south Dublin.

Yesterday, a spokeswoman for Robinson, who has denied being a “willing pawn” for Dubai’s ruler on her visit last year, said the former president would not comment on reports that Haya had fled Dubai. “Mary has said she will be respecting Princess Haya’s privacy in what is a private matter,” the spokeswoman said.

Toby Cadman, a lawyer with Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers and a former legal counsel to Latifa, said Haya’s reported departure from Dubai was a significant development.

“The human-rights situation in the UAE is dire, as has been reported for some time,” Cadman said. “The facade of progressive reform and freedom is just that, a facade.

“The credible reports emerging of Princess Haya’s departure, and seeking refuge in Europe, is the most high-profile case so far. It clearly demonstrates the lengths that women are being forced to go to in order to flee a system of oppression and abuse.

Princess Latifa with Mary Robinson in Dubai (AP)

“The issue will, of course, be whether Princess Haya will now speak about the very serious allegation of forced abduction and false imprisonment of her step-daughter Sheikha Latifa. It should be noted that it was Princess Haya who invited and paid for the former UN high commissioner, Mary Robinson, to travel to Dubai in December 2018 in what has been described as a whitewash.

“I certainly hope that Princess Haya now steps forward and addresses what she was clearly forced to do by the ruling authority in Dubai. It is at times like this that a person’s integrity is truly tested.”

Ken Roth, the US lawyer who is the executive director of Human Rights Watch, said Robinson did the world a service by accepting Princess Haya’s invitation for lunch and showing the world that Princess Latifa is alive “despite her father having kidnapped her back after she tried to escape her gilded prison”.

“Unfortunately, Princess Haya, backed by Mary Robinson, promoted the idea that Princess Latifa is a ‘troubled young woman’ in the loving care of her family — something that no one is able to judge until Princess Latifa is allowed to leave her gilded prison and speak freely for herself,” said Roth.

“Now Princess Haya has fled her own gilded prison. I wish her safe refuge as she tries to avoid any effort of her husband to kidnap her back to Dubai the way he did his daughter, Princess Latifa.” Since Haya’s disappearance al-Maktoum, who publishes poetry online, has written two poems, one in English and one in Arabic, apparently bemoaning the loss of his wife, though not naming her.

In the poem in English, Affection in Your Eyes, he writes that he has discerned a “fatal arrow” in her eyes, which is driving him insane. “Let the past be; soften your heart/ Forgive my mistakes, and reward my good deeds.”

The Arabic poem, posted on an Instagram account affiliated to him, is more bitter. “You betrayer, you betrayed the most precious trust, and your game has been revealed.”