Words by Grace Curtis

In response to increasing concern over the welfare of Princess Latifa, the Dubai royal family announced that she is “being cared for at home.”

On 16 February, BBC Panorama published videos that they obtained featuring Princess Latifa of Dubai, in which she accuses the Dubai royal family of holding her hostage since her escape attempt in 2018. 

The news made headlines around the world and the royal family has since responded, claiming that she is “being cared for at home”. They released a statement stating that Princess Latifa “continues to improve and we are hopeful she will return to public life at the appropriate time”. 

In the secretly recorded videos obtained by the BBC, the princess said she is being held, against her will, alone in a villa, in fear of her life. “I’m doing this video from a bathroom, because this is the only room with a door I can lock. I’m a hostage. I am not free. I’m enslaved in this jail. My life is not in my hands.”

She also claimed that: “I have been here ever since, for more than a year in solitary confinement. No access to medical help, no trial, no charge, nothing”. 

According to the BBC, she was able to record the messages using a mobile phone “she was secretly given about a year after her capture” and that she managed to record several videos over a period of several months. 

The Guardian reported that Princess Latifa’s closest friends have not heard from her in “six months”. 

On 19 February, the United Nations human rights office said that it had approached United Arab Emirates (UAE) officials in response to the claims. “We raised our concerns about the situation in light of the disturbing video evidence that emerged this week,” said Liz Throssell, a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. They have also asked the UAE to provide proof that the princess is still alive.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the BBC he would look into the case, stating: “We take human rights seriously, we will closely monitor the situation. Across the board, with adversaries, competitors, with partners and allies alike… we take human rights seriously and the president has put it at the heart of our foreign policy and countries can expect us to follow through on that.”

Prime Minister British Boris Johnson has said that he is “concerned” for Latifa, while Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, said that he found the videos “very troubling”. Johnson said the UK would continue to monitor the UN investigation. He said, “I think what we’ll do is wait and see how they get on. We’ll keep an eye on that”. 

Supporters of the Princess have launched a campaign, FreeLatifa, which is urging the United Nations to mount an extensive investigation into her welfare. The campaign said, “it is now critically urgent that an independent team from the United Nations travel to Dubai and be able to visit Latifa immediately, and that they insist that Latifa is brought to safety in a country of her choosing”. 

The Dubai Royal Family responded with this statement: “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.” “Her family has confirmed that Her Highness is being cared for at home, supported by her family and medical professionals.”

The daughter of the King of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has only been seen once in public since she attempted to flee Dubai in February 2018.

Days after leaving Dubai on a jet ski, the princess was captured and flown back to Dubai, where she has remained ever since. Her family claim that she was brought back as part of a “rescue mission”.  

In 2020, a UK family court accepted that her father had forcibly returned Princess Latifa to Dubai twice. 

When asked if the footage will make the UK consider imposing sanctions on Dubai, Dominic Raab said: “It’s not clear to me that there would be the evidence to support that.”

Picture Credit: Tiina Jauhiainen

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