Activists call for UAE to free 'captive' Dubai princess

Activists call for UAE to free 'captive' Dubai princess
Detained in Dubai campaigners held a demonstration outside the UAE embassy in London on Tuesday, demanding information on Dubai's 'captive princess'.
4 min read
16 May, 2018
The video was only meant to be released if Latifa's life was in danger [Youtube]
Detained in Dubai campaigners staged a protest outside the UAE embassy in London on Monday, calling for the freedom of a "detained" Emirati princess, following her failed attempt to escape alleged imprisonment in the Gulf state.

Detained in Dubai - a UK-based human rights group - is spearheading the #freelatifa campaign, named after the princess who campaigners fear is being held against her will in the UAE.

Activists gathered outside the UAE embassy to hand deliver an urgent UN communication concerning the alleged capture of Sheikha Latifa by Emirati authorities.

"We've knocked on this embassy door many times before and been ignored," said David Haigh, managing partner of Detained in Dubai.

"Now, however, it is the United Nations who are knocking. They cannot be turned away so easily. The UAE authorities must do the right thing and release Latifa."

The document was delivered by Tiina Jauhiaien, a Finnish citizen, who claims she was on board a yacht with Latifa when it was raided in a joint Indian-Emirati operation in March, around 50km off the coast of Goa.

She says she was subsequently detained for two weeks in the Gulf state after the failed escape.

Jauhiainen has detailed the violent operation carried out by Emirati commandos in conjunction with the Indian coastguard to apprehend Sheikha Latifa.

Sheikha Latifa bin Mohammed al-Maktoum, 32, has not been seen or heard from for two months, when in a 40-minute video she made a desperate plea to be saved from imprisonment in the UAE.

Reports suggest that she was "brought back" to the Gulf state, by Emirati authorities.

The royal's friends and family say they are deeply concerned for her safety, suspecting that Latifa is being detained in the UAE.

Earlier this month, leading rights group Human Rights Watch demanded Emirati authorities reveal the whereabouts of Sheikha Latifa.

The princess had previously revealed rampant torture and abuse at the hands of her father Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum.

"UAE authorities should immediately reveal the whereabouts of Sheikha Latifa, confirm her status, and allow her contact with the outside world," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. 

"If she is detained she needs to be given the rights all detainees should have, including being taken before an independent judge."


Latifa's plight came to light after Detained in Dubai - which works on behalf of people caught up in the UAE's legal system - released a 40-minute video in which Latifa describes how she and her sister were held virtual prisoners by the family.

The video was supposed to be made public if her escape attempt failed.

"I'm making this video because it could be the last video I make," Latifa said in a haunting vlog.

"If you are watching the video, it's not such a good thing - either I'm dead or I'm in a very, very, very bad situation."

She explains that she was previously jailed after trying to free her sister, Shamsa, who has allegedly been held captive for 16 years - at the request of their father - when she tried to run away to London.

After Shamsa's detention in 2002, Latifa wanted to free her older sister, she said.

Latifa, then 16, attempted to escape the UAE but was caught at the border, which led to her being imprisoned and tortured on her father's orders, she claimed.

"I think the first time was torturing me, I didn't feel any pain because I was in so much shock," she said, claiming her torturers were ordered to beat her to death.

Despite surviving the torture, she suffered mental health problems, she said.

The plan for Latifa's escape attempt in March was to sail to Goa, then travel to Mumbai ahead of a flight to the United States, where she intended to claim political asylum.