Being born into a royal family sounds pretty cool for most of us. I mean, the lifestyle that we get to see them live seems pretty spectacular. But, once you hear this incredible story about the daughter of Shiekh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, you’ll rethink that.
It’s a story of mystery, it’s a story of sadness, a story of hope, and a story of destruction all mixed into the life of a princess.
Let’s Start From The Beginning
Latifa Bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is an Emirati princess and a member of the Dubai royal family. She is one of 30 children, and is the daughter of the ruler of Dubai and Huriah Ahmed Al M’aash from Algeria.
She was born in 1985, and has been missing since March of 2018. She was kidnapped 40 km away from the Indian coast by a joint India-Emirates special operation while still in International waters, aiming to reach an American embassy to ask for asylum.
The Ruler Of Dubai
But let’s take a closer look at her father, and why this story is so important. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has been the Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, and the ruler of Dubai since 2006 when his brother passed away.
He is responsible for the growth of Dubai, and turning it into a global destination for tourists around the world. As you might guess, he is also a billionaire.
He’s A Big Deal
He launched a number of major enterprises including Emirates Airline (which is the biggest airline in the world), DP World, and the Jumeirah Group. He is also the biggest sponsor of horse racing in the world.
His whole life he’s been an equestrian. He is the founder of the Maktoum family owned Godolphin racing stable and the owner of Darley, a thoroughbred breeding operation that has stables in six countries.
He’s Rich, Rich
Just to put his money into perspective, he owns the yacht called “Dubai” which is 162 meters long. It’s the third largest yacht in the world and can host up to 115 people including the crew.
He is worth over five billion dollars and has had many wives. There are three long-term wives and then a whole host of mistresses and other women that he was seen with, or he’s been with.
Rules With An Iron Fist
With all of this being said, he rules with an iron fist. We’ll get into how his daughter feels about him in a second, but his main goal is to ensure his legacy and reputation stays intact. He is willing to do ANYTHING that it takes in order to ensure this happens.
There was no family member off limits for punishing if he felt like they were throwing his name into the mud.
Not Allowed To Disappear
Latifa had enough of her life in Dubai, and wanted to escape. She contacted a French spy, Herve Jaubert, for help on how she was going to do so. He had already escaped Dubai once before, and even wrote a whole novel on it.
Their plan was going to be risky. If she was caught, she would probably be killed. No royal member, especially Latifa (as you’ll find out), is allowed to disappear.
The Dreaded Video
Since Latifa knew the escape would be risky, she made a video detailing everything about her life. It was a tell-all about how she’s been treated, and being treated by her father and his administration. She calls him the most evil man in the world.
The video was only going to be released if something bad had happened to her on the escape. She gave the video to her friend.
Shamsa Was A Mother Figure
Latifa claimed that she was effectively a prisoner in her own country. She needed to get out. She had already been imprisoned for three and a half years in the early 2000s for trying to escape as a 16-year-old.
At that time, she was trying to get to England to get a lawyer to help her other imprisoned sister, Shamsa. Shamsa had tried to escape the UAE a few years before Latifa did.
Kidnapped In England
Shamsa felt like she was constricted and wanted a new life. She made it all the way to England before getting caught by her father’s special forces. She was put into a private jet, flown back to Dubai, and tortured for years.
Latifa saw her as a mother figure. Shamsa was drugged and put into a building that was isolated. Latifa was able to go visit her at the time.
Snuck In A Telephone
They snuck in a telephone for Shamsa to use to contact them whenever she wanted. No one knew about the phone. Shamsa ended up calling some British journalists who put out a story about her.
This caused a whirlwind of chaos in Dubai. They searched Shamsa’s room and found the phone. She was no longer allowed to have any visitors to her room for fear that they would be smuggling more stuff in.
She Needed To Get To England
Latifa took matters into her own hands. She decided it was time for her to try to sneak out of the country for the first time. She was 16 back in the early 2000s and wanted to help her older sister Shamsa.
She had never been out of the country before so this was going to be tough. She wanted to go to England to get a lawyer for her sister.
It Didn’t Take Long To Be Caught
She set off with little to no idea what to expect. She made it to the border and was immediately detained. They knew that a 16-year-old princess traveling alone was probably a recipe for disaster.
When her father found out, he was irate. She was put in prison on the orders of her father. She was tortured for what she did. She said that one guy held her, while the other one beat her.
She Didn’t Feel Pain
She said that the first time she was tortured she didn’t feel any pain, she was in so much shock from the whole situation. She was continuously tortured for the next three and a half years.
The men that were torturing her said, “your father told us to beat you, until we kill you.” Some of the beatings would last for over five hours or until the men were too tired.
“The Most Evil Man”
Latifa, in the 40-minute confessional video she made before she ran away for the second time, talks a lot about her father. She says that her father, the ruler of Dubai, is the most evil person in the world.
According to her, the perception that he is progressive on human rights is a lie. She says he’s responsible for the death of an insane amount of people. She even points to a specific family member he had killed.
Killing Family Isn’t New
She talks about the time when her uncle died, and her father had her aunt killed. She says, “everyone knows about it, he did it.”
She says that he had her killed because she was too outrageous and wild. Latifa says her dad just thought that she talked too much and was worried that she would spill some of the family secrets. It was much easier to have her dead.
They Tried To Break Her Mentally
She was in prison from June 2002 until October 2005 for trying to escape the first time. She was in solitary confinement and when they weren’t physically beating her, they were doing it mentally.
The state would switch off the lights, and they would leave them off for days. Most of the time Latifa had no idea what time of day it was. After she was released from prison, she was able to live a semi-private life.
She Was A Prisoner In Her Own Country
She wasn’t allowed to go anywhere without a driver. In fact, she had never been in the front seat of a car. She enjoyed skydiving and scuba diving, but was never allowed to leave Dubai.
She started to become more and more unhappy. Her friends started noticing. She kept complaining about feeling “trapped” and, although she wasn’t in prison, she didn’t feel like she was free. There were people always watching her.
It Was Time To Leave
Finally, she decided it was time to attempt another escape. This time it was going to be planned, and she wasn’t going to fail, or so she thought.
She contacted a former French spy who had escaped Dubai from persecution, and she would be going with her friend Tiina Jauhiainen. Her plan was to get to the United States and seek political asylum. Her life would be in a lot of danger.
All Hands On Deck
The plan they laid out was elaborate, but nearly bulletproof. At this point, if Latifa was caught for a second time trying to escape Dubai, she would certainly be put in prison and possibly killed.
The day of the escape had arrived. It was February 24, 2018, and all hands were on deck (figuratively and literally). Latifa had a curfew every night, so they would have to work quickly and be long gone before that curfew hit.
They Set Off
The 33-year-old and her Finnish friend Tiina set off. First, they would get on jet skis off of the coast of Oman. They would ride those jet skis to the middle of the Gulf of Oman where they would run into the French spy, Herve Jaubert.
This would be incredibly risky. The timing had to be perfect and they would both have to meet up at the right time without looking suspicious.
So Far So Good
They executed the plan perfectly. Now, Latifa and Tiina were on Jaubert’s yacht. After a few days of sailing to the Indian coast, Latifa contacted Radha Stirling from an organization called Detained in Dubai. She was notifying them of her plans.
So far, so good. At this point, it’s a couple of days in and Latifa’s father had been notified she was missing. They would find out the motives of her absence when she posted on social media a few days into her escape.
She Reached Out To The World
This ramped up the search for her. The government couldn’t let her escape. But, Latifa was so close to the Indian coast. Once they were there, Jaubert had scheduled an interview with an Indian journalist.
That way her story would be known in case any kind of foul play occurred. But, on March 3rd, 2018, they were compromised. The yacht was intercepted by masked men who were armed with plenty of firepower.
It Was A Planned Attack
They knew exactly who and what they were looking for. The masked men grabbed Latifa who was begging them to kill her instead of bringing her back to Dubai.
It’s still unknown who the men were, and how they were able to find the yacht so quickly. Some reports say that it was the Indian Coast Guard who had orders from Dubai to search their waters. Others think it was UAE Special Forces.
Hasn’t Been Heard From Since
Latifa hasn’t been seen or heard from since that day. She told her friends that if she was going to get captured again, she would most certainly be killed.
The Dubai government says that she is home safe, and they are looking forward to her “stable future”. The video Latifa released, and the press that followed, was enough to get Tiina and Haubert out of jail, but Latifa is still missing.
It was in Tiina’s living room that the 40-minute video from Latifa was recorded. She was the one who knew everything about the Princess as they had been friends for eight years.
They met after Latifa reached out to her to be her own Capoeira (a form of martial arts that combines dance, acrobatics, and music) teacher. They hit it off immediately. Tiina was the last friend she saw before she was captured.
Who Is Herve Jaubert?
Herve Jaubert is a former French navy officer and secret agent. He had many connections in Dubai, and even owned a submarine factory in the UAE. The factory hit some financial trouble, and he had to flee the country.
He knew that he was about to get set up for crimes that he didn’t commit, so he knew he had to leave the country without a trace. He did just that.
A Plan That Sounds Very Familiar
One morning in 2008, he dressed up like a woman. He put an Arab woman’s abaya on so that he would blend into the crowd. He got onto a rubber boat with a small motor.
He went out to international waters and met with another former spy in a yacht. They took that yacht to India and then he fled home from there. Does that sound familiar? That’s basically the exact escape plan for Latifa.
David Haigh Knows About The Torture
David Haigh is now a British lawyer and International crisis manager, but he used to be the managing director of Leeds United Football Club. He was convicted of fraud charges in Dubai and spent 22-months in prison where he was tortured and abused.
He says that he was lured to Dubai under false pretenses. Leeds United had just been bought by a UAE company, and it’s claimed that he had embezzled over $23.7 million from them.
Fighting For Others
After having to spend time in the Dubai jail, he suffers from PTSD. He felt suicidal, and wouldn’t wish the torture on anyone. He has now joined the organization Detained in Dubai, and helps other people in his situation.
He dealt with the legal matters regarding another British national, Jamie Harron, who was jailed for touching a man’s hip. He was released by way of special order from none other than Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Willing To Do Anything
This story paints a grey picture of a fairly colorful country. Dubai is seen as the progressive state in the middle east. But, this story is telling us otherwise.
While Dubai is trying to move forward into the 21st century, there are still stories like this one that seems to pop up from time to time. It’s important that the country continues to move forward but mustn’t overlook its past.