The British Government has asked the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Wednesday to offer proof that Sheikha Latifa, one of the daughters of the Emir of Dubai, is still alive. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has also said that he will raise the matter with the Emirati authorities. The sudden international interest has been aroused after the British channel BBC broadcast videos last night in which the woman denounces being detained against her will and fearing for her life. The scrutiny puts the Emirates in the spotlight, a country that seeks to burnish its credentials on the global stage.
“Given what we have just seen, I think people would want out of humanity to see that she is alive and well,” British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab was quoted as saying by Reuters. Raab was reacting to videos broadcast by the BBC’s Panorama program in which 35-year-old Latifa recounted how commandos sent by her father stormed the ship she tried to flee in March 2018 and drugged her before returning her to Dubai. against your will.
“They hold me hostage. I am not free… my life is not in my hands… I am worried about my safety ”, Latifa affirms before the camera of her mobile, with apparent calm, but without being able to hide her unease. The videos leaked by the Free Latifa campaign are the first images of the woman since late 2018.
The new videos have once again drawn attention to the campaign to free Latifa, but above all to the controversial family relationships of Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashid al Maktoum, who in addition to being the Emir of Dubai, is the vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates. The ruler, considered the architect of Dubai’s international fame and one of the richest men in the world, has also experienced a turbulent divorce process from Princess Haya, his sixth wife, who ran away two years ago with their two common children to London. (A process in which the judge has accepted that the emir “ordered and orchestrated” the kidnapping of Latifa and another sister, Shamsa, who tried to flee a few years earlier).
Such public exposure is unusual in a country where family matters, especially those of ruling families, are kept in the strictest confidence. The domesticated local press has not published a single line about it. Though between the lines, some observers saw the sudden promotion of the head of the Dubai Department of Culture (another daughter of the emir who is also named Latifa, but from a different mother) an attempt to question the credibility of the princess’s kidnapping.
So far, the Emirati authorities have avoided the case. But the country’s growing visibility both in regional politics (relations with Israel, opposition to Iran, and even military interventions in Yemen and Libya), as well as in its technological and space ambitions (it just put a probe on Mars), increase the pressure to let Dubai release Latifa. Their confinement also clashes with the message of promotion of women that the UAE has preached for a decade with the double objective of not wasting the capacities of half of its small population and improving its human rights indicators.
Even British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been forced to address the issue of Princess Latifa, although he has shielded himself at the UN to avoid compromising. “It’s something that obviously worries us, but the United Nations Human Rights Commission is studying it. I think what we will do is wait and see what they get. We will be pending ”, declared Johnson to the British media.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has ensured that “of course it will raise these new revelations with the UAE” and left the door open to other actions by the organization. It is not clear what it can achieve without the support (and pressure) of member countries.
Lawyers who revealed the assault on the ship on which he was fleeing and his forced repatriation to Dubai already reported the case to the Office of Special Procedures of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2018. The UAE Mission in Geneva responded with a statement in which he rejected the accusations and assured that “Her Highness Sheikha Latifa was at home and lived with her family in Dubai.” She attached as evidence the photos of the visit that Mary Robinson, former High Commissioner for Human Rights and former President of Ireland, had made to the princess “at the request of the family.”
Robinson has acknowledged that she felt used on that visit, that she continues to worry about Latifa. “The situation has changed. And that is why I think it should be investigated ”, he declares on the BBC program.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.