A Princess in Peril

Videos made by Emirati princess Sheikha Latifa saying that she is being held prisoner in a Villa by her family have recently come out. But the story of her life and escapes from her family go back to the year 2000.

Princess+Latifa%27s+daring+escapes+have+landed+her+a+place+in+world+news.

Lilly Wolfe via Canva

Princess Latifa’s daring escapes have landed her a place in world news.

Lilly Wolfe, Columnist

Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum is the daughter of the vice president of the United Arab Emirates and the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Despite her family’s wealth, her life has been anything but luxurious. She has spoken out on her poor treatment and even attempted multiple escapes from her controlling father.

According to the BBC, Latifa’s story begins in July of the year 2000. One of Latifa’s sisters, Shamsa, attempted to escape from Dubai in order to gain freedom from a heavily controlled life. During this time Latifa said that she was in contact with Shamsa. Eventually, because Shamsa was caught and imprisoned, Latifa lost contact with her.

Despite how poorly her sister’s escape went, it was in June 2002 when Latifa was 16 that she too decided to escape. She hoped to find a lawyer in a neighboring country to help her sister. Unfortunately, her escape failed. She was caught and imprisoned before she even crossed the border. While in prison she was also beaten ruthlessly; “They told me that your father told us to beat you till we kill you,” said Latifa. She was kept in prison for three years and four months; during that time not much was heard from her.

Fast forward to January of 2018. After meticulously planning an escape with Tiina Jauhiainen, Latifa’s close friend and fitness instructor, Latifa recorded a video documenting her life thus far that she planned to have released if her escape failed. On February 24, 2018, Jauhiainen and Latifa began their escape. They made it to the coast of India where a yacht was waiting for them. From there they were planning to go to the U.S. to seek political asylum. Their plans were cut short when only eight days after escaping their boat was stormed by Indian government agents. In an interview with Liam Bartlett of the show “60 Minutes Australia”, Tiina Jauhiainen says, “They were telling me, ‘close your eyes or we will shoot you right here’.” The video Latifa made was uploaded to YouTube on March, 11, 2018 by the Official #FreeLatifa Campaign titled “Sheikha (Princess) Latifa Al Maktoum – FULL VIDEO – Escape from Dubai – #FreeLatifa​.” In the video, Latifa talked of her horrible treatment by her father and even said that her father wanted her to die. Another thing Latifa said was, “If you are watching this video it’s not such a good thing. Either I am dead, or in a very very very bad situation.”

Nothing was heard from her between the months of March and December. Not even Jauhiainen had heard from her. On December 15, 2018, pictures were posted of former Irish president Mary Robinson and princess Latifa having a meeting. According to The Guardian, Robinson was presented with the idea that Latifa was just a troubled young girl. She said, “The dilemma was that Latifa is vulnerable, she’s troubled. She made a video that she now regrets and she planned an escape, or was part of a plan of escape.” Many were displeased with this response from Robinson, but it did achieve exactly what Sheikh Mohammed wanted.

Now in February of 2021, Tiina Jauhiainen and Princess Latifa’s cousin Marcus Esabri shared videos sent to them by the princess. According to the BBC, Jauhiainen began receiving videos from Latifa in 2019. In these videos the Princess says that she is being held captive and that she fears for her life. “I’m in a villa. I’m a hostage. This villa has been converted into a jail.” According to Jauhiainen and Esabri, one day these videos stopped coming. They hesitated for months as to whether or not to release the videos, as they feared doing so might endanger Latifa’s life even more.

Nothing else has been heard directly from the Princess since then. According to NBC, the United Nations has recently asked to see proof that the princess is alive. The family responded by saying, “In response to media reports regarding Sheikha Latifa, we want to thank those who have expressed concern for her wellbeing, despite the coverage which certainly is not reflective of the actual position.”

This situation isn’t the only one like it. Princess Haya, ex-wife of Sheikh Mohammed, managed to escape Dubai with her two kids in April of 2019. Marcus Esabri, who also lived with the Dubai royal family for a number of years, has also spoken out against the family and has said that he had “no freedom”. Ultimately, these cases demonstrate underlying issues with the monarchy in Dubai, such as Sheikh Mohammed’s oppressive tendencies as well as gender inequality in the UAE and in the royal family. In the video that was released March, 11, 2018 Princess Latifa said that her father would “kill people to protect his own reputation.” Latifa has survived so much leading up to this point and we can only hope that the recent publicity will prevent Latifa from being killed in silence. Ways to support Latifa are by going to FreeLatifa.com and donating or signing a petition.