The story of Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is well-known. She is the daughter of the Ruler of Dubai and Vice President of the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who attempted to escape the UAE in 2018.
She got as far as international waters near India before she was captured and sent back to Dubai by her father’s men. She has only been seen once since in a controversial meeting with Mary Robinson, the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, when Latifa’s stepmother, Princess Haya, invited Ms Robinson to Dubai to meet with Latifa.
After she was captured and sent back to Dubai, a video, filmed by Latifa was released where she calls out her father for his abuse and kidnapping of her older sister, Shamsa. She said that if people were watching the video, something had gone horribly wrong.
Latifa escaped alongside her friend, Tiina Jauhiainen, who is now spearheading the Free Latifa movement in an effort to free Latifa in Dubai. She and human rights lawyer, David Haigh, and Latifa’s cousin, Marcus Essabri, have worked alongside the Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Detained International to see Latifa free.
Royal Central spoke to Jauhiainen, Haigh and Essabri about how the campaign is going. Jauhiainen told us:
“We all continue to work towards the freedom of Latifa every day. As in the case of everyone in the world, COVID-19 slowed the work. David Haigh, I, and Latifa’s cousin recently all met in Cornwall, England, to work on existing and new legal cases, campaigns and initiatives to bring freedom for Latifa. As one example, our legal team, headed by Alun Jones QC and Rodney Dixon QC, recently made further submissions in September to the 122nd of the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances at the UN Human Rights Council. This submission gained worldwide press.”
They added that they continue to “pursue our complaint before the United Nations, in addition, we are preparing various legal actions in other jurisdictions; here we intend to use the findings of the High Court in Princess Haya’s case that found that Latifa was indeed kidnapped.”
During the case in UK courts between Latifa’s father and stepmother, Princess Haya, the Fact-Finding Judgment released by the High Court – in favour of Princess Haya – found that the Sheikh kidnapped Latifa. In the release, it was found that Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum attempted to escape the country in 2018 and made a dramatic video exposing her father’s nature to the world. She was captured in the Indian Ocean and returned to Dubai with many fearing for her safety. Her video was used as evidence, and her allegations of physical abuse and torture were deemed credible. She had previously attempted to escape in 2002.
Jauhiainen and Haigh helped Princess Haya’s legal team in the aforementioned court battle.
Next, the campaign plans to turn attention to a worldwide campaign to get Sheikh Mohammed banned in the horse racing world; they will use the Fact-Finding Judgment as evidence. They also aim to commence a campaign to boycott certain Dubai brands like Emirates and Jumeirah Hotels until Latifa is released. They said: “People around the world should not be supporting brands owned by a ruler who acts with impunity ignoring laws around the world and whom abuse, torture and kidnaps at will.”
If people want to help with the campaign, Juahianinen said: “The more people who learn about Latifa and our campaign, the better the chances of freedom for Latifa. We need the calls for her freedom to be so loud around the world from everyone from the UN to people in their homes around the world. Our campaign website has all the updates on the campaign as well as how people can help. There is, for example, a link to a petition that can be signed and shared. Also, sharing the news and updates on social media would help raise awareness of Latifa’s plight.”
We asked the Free Latifa team what they would say to Latifa if they could send her a message. Their messages to the Sheikha are below:
Tiina Jauhiainen: “If I could send a message to Latifa, I would tell her that even if all seems like a big failure, she must not give up on her dreams. I would tell her to stay strong and that she has not been forgotten, and we are continuing to fight for her freedom. I would also send her my love and a big hug.”
David Haigh: “I would read to Latifa one of my favourite quotes by Winston Churchill, a quote that always helped me pull through dark times.”
“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” – Winston Churchill
Marcus Essabri (Latifa’s cousin): “My dearest Latifa, I wish I knew how you are doing. Please don’t give up, there is always hope, and as long as we are alive, we won’t give up. Nothing ever stays the same. Love you very much, and I am proud of you. xx.”