U.N. to speak to UAE about missing Princess Latifa after troubling videos emerge

Dubai princess says she's held captive

Haley Ott
February 17, 2021, CBS News

The United Nations said it would discuss the alleged detention of Princess Latifa al-Maktoum, the daughter of the ruler of Dubai, with the UAE after a series of videos of the 35-year-old apparently taken in captivity were broadcast as part of a documentary on CBS News’ partner network BBC News.

Latifa al-Maktoum hasn’t been heard from by anyone outside Dubai for months, and she has reportedly been confined in a villa by her family for over two years, BBC News reported.

In the videos, which were recorded over several months on a phone smuggled to al-Maktoum by her friend, the princess speaks directly to camera, explaining how she was being “held hostage.”

“All the windows are barred shut. I can’t open any window. There’s five policemen outside and two policewomen inside the house, and I can’t even go outside to get any fresh air,” she said.

“Every day I am worried about my safety and my life”

Al-Maktoum has reportedly been held captive since 2018, when she tried to flee Dubai to India with the aim of eventually claiming political asylum in the United States.

Princess Latifa of Dubai, United Arab Emirates

In footage filmed before her attempted escape, she said that her family had control of her passport, and that she hadn’t been allowed to leave the UAE since the year 2000.

She was intercepted trying to slip out of the country on a yacht with her friend, Tiina Jauhiainen, and was forcibly injected with tranquilizer and brought back to Dubai, she says in the videos.

Jauhiainen was taken back to the country separately and held in a detention facility for two weeks.

“Every day I am worried about my safety and my life. I don’t really know if I’m going to survive this situation,” al-Maktoum said in one of the phone videos. “The police threatened me that I’ll be in prison my whole life and I’ll never see the sun again… I just want to be free.”

“The situation is getting more desperate every day”

After her own release from prison, and with no news of Latifa, Jauhiainen started the “Free Latifa” lobby group.

In 2019, with international pressure growing, the former U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson travelled to Dubai to seek proof that al-Maktoum was still alive. 

The two met at the home of another royal family member, al-Maktoum’s stepmother Princess Haya, who later fled the country herself with her two children. It was the only time al-Maktoum was allowed out of her villa during her captivity, she said in the videos.

Princess Haya told Robinson that Latifa was having mental health difficulties.

“I was misled, initially by my good friend princess Haya, because she was misled. Haya began to explain that Latifa had quite a serious bipolar problem. And they were saying to me, in a way that was very convincing, ‘We don’t want Latifa to go through any further trauma,’” Robinson said.

The British government is facing calls to get involved in al-Maktoum’s case, as her father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, has powerful connections in U.K. and visits frequently.

“I don’t know what they’re planning to do with me. I really don’t know. So the situation is getting more desperate every day, and I am just really really tired of this now,” al-Maktoum said in one of her videos.