Latifa Al Maktoum, Sheikha from Dubai, has been said to have been her father’s hostage for three years. Now even the United Nations are investigating.
There is a video of Latifa Al Maktoum in which she is flying. The sheikha races upside down towards the earth, below her the artificial palm islands of Dubai. The sun shines through the haze, the wind roars, the young woman spreads her arms. She turns a somersault, pushes her legs down. As if she wanted to delay the landing of her body. Then the parachute inflates and pulls them on the ropes. Latifa sails to the ground, to the United Arab Emirates – to her prison.
Latifa Al Maktoum only belongs to herself in very rare moments. The 35-year-old was only free once for more than a few hours: around eight days in February 2018, on her escape from Dubai. The princess did not want anything unusual: determine her own life, study, travel. It went wrong. She has been missing since the attempt to escape until new videos were leaked to the British BBC last week: “I am a hostage. I fear for my life every day,” says Latifa in the toilet of a villa somewhere in the Emirates.
This is said to have been converted into a prison. Five policemen patrol outside, five inside, she says. Latifa is one of the thirty children of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and she is not behaving as intended. Her will should have broken long ago. But she continues to fight with videos.
In Finland, Tiina Jauhiainen sits at the computer and coordinates its publication. Jauhiainen was Latifa’s parachute instructor, later her friend and in 2018 her escape helper. She was with her when Latifa was able to sit in the front of a car for the first time in her life. The escape ended on a yacht off the coast of Goa, where five machine guns were aimed at their heads and a voice advised them to say goodbye to life.
Jauhiainen was released and has been fighting for her friend’s freedom ever since. “Even the UN wants to investigate the case now. The world looks, that protects it,” she says in the video interview, raising her eyebrows: “Dubai has made a statement! Latifa is well and happy with the family. Liar!” She says.
Latifa’s story sounds more like the Middle Ages than it did in 2021. “We’re supposed to beat you until we kill you. This is your father’s command,” one of her torturers is said to have said when she fled for the first time at the age of 16. Her first break was when she was in prison as a teenager. Her father is the meanest person she knows, she says.
Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is one of the richest men in the world, ruler of Dubai and Minister of Defense of the United Arab Emirates. He shows the world what is possible with so much money: building a city as glamorous as New York in the middle of the desert, for example, having six women, participating in the world’s largest horse races, being friends with the Queen, 3.5 billion Invest in UN development goals for children – and kidnap his daughters, allegedly torture them, lock them up.
Latifa grew up in a gold cage. She lives with her mother and three siblings in a palace with dozens of employees. There are pools, nail and massage studios, chefs and Rolex watches, just no freedom for girls. When her eldest sister Shamsa was 18, she tried to flee to England on vacation. She turns to journalists, a “Guardian” article appears. After going to a pub, she is drugged, flown back and thrown in jail. An investigation into the incident is being dropped for dubious reasons. The emir is one of the largest private landowners in England.
Latifa takes years to recover from her first attempt to escape. She now likes animals better than people, is learning to dive and parachute jumping. “She is reserved, but daring,” says her Finnish friend. Every step you take is monitored. At 33, she wants to flee again. It’s a fight against Goliath. The Emir of Dubai has a free hand over one of the most sophisticated surveillance systems in the world. The desert state tracks cell phones, turns them into eavesdropping devices and maintains excellent relations with India. The country is helping to bring them back.
Now a BBC documentary is getting things moving. Boris Johnson is “concerned” about the situation of the princess. European influencers who can be bought by the emir find themselves in need of explanation. The image of the emir suffers. Wonders who he will blame for this.