Princess Latifa Biography and Profile
Princess Latifa Early Life
Princess Latifa, or Latifa bint Mohammed al-Makhtoum, is the daughter of Dubai’s billionaire ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum who is credited for transforming Dubai into one of the foremost destinations for business and tourism.
Princess Latifa was born on 5 December 1985. Sheikh Mohammed, also the President and Vice-President of the UAE, was partly educated in England, maintains an acquaintance with Queen Elizabeth and founded the Godolphin racing stable.
Latifa and her brother, Sheikh Majid spent their early childhood with their paternal aunt. Educated at the Dubai English Speaking School, International School Choueifat and Latifa School for Girls, the princess is said to be an excellent and experienced skydiver.
What Happened to Princess Latifa?
The Dubai princess said she wanted to run away due to her family background. In a video, Princess Latifa said she wanted to escape Dubai to flee the clutches of her father. She has accused him of mistreating her and her older sister, Shamsa, exerting severe control over their lives, and a series of allegations including murder.
As per the ‘Free Latifa’ campaign, the princess tried to escape from the family residence in Dubai in 2002. She was 16 at the time. She was, however, easily tracked and brought back to the palace where she was allegedly detained by her father for over three years, the campaign says.
In 2011, Latifa – who was not allowed to have her passport, drive or leave Dubai – contacted former French intelligence officer Hervé Jaubert, who had previously escaped Dubai after being convicted of embezzlement. Over the next few years, with the help of Latifa’s friend Tiina Jauhiainen, they planned her escape.
On 24th February 2018, Latifa and Tiina travelled 26 miles from UAE to Oman, then left Oman by inflatable boat and jet skis to meet Hervé, who was waiting in a US flagged yacht. They planned to sail to Goa, India, where Latifa could fly to the US and claim political asylum.
Eight days later, the boat was intercepted by Indian special forces while approaching Goa. Smoke grenades were reportedly used and Latifa and Tiina were held at gunpoint.
Tiina, Hervé and three crew members were detained in UAE before being released two weeks later. Latifa’s whereabouts is unknown.
Just before her escape attempt, Latifa recorded a ‘just in case’ video message at Tiina’s apartment, documenting her plan and reasons for escape, sent it to a group of trusted people and asked them to publish it if her plan failed. The video was released in March 2018 and the world started asking: ‘Where is Princess Latifa?’
Just days before the BBC documentary Escape from Dubai: The Mystery of the Missing Princess was released, the Dubai government released a statement declaring that Latifa and Shamsa are ‘adored and cherished’ and that Latifa is ‘safe in Dubai’ celebrating her birthday in ‘privacy and peace’.
After the ruler’s wife Princess Haya fled to the UK in 2019 with two of their children, Sheikh Mohammed commenced proceedings in England and Wales under the jurisdiction of the London High Court seeking orders that his two children — Sheikha Al Jalila bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum who was born in 2007, and Sheikh Zayed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum who was born in 2012 — return to Dubai. The rulings of these proceedings were released by the court in March 2020 and mentioned some of the key allegations made by the mother.
Princess Haya claimed the ruler ordered and orchestrated the unlawful abduction of his daughter Princess Shamsa in 2000 from the UK to Dubai; and that the ruler, on two occasions in June 2002 and February 2018, ordered and orchestrated the forcible return of his daughter Latifa to the family home in Dubai. In 2002, the return was from the border of Dubai with Oman, and in 2018 it was by an armed commando assault at sea near the coast of India, she said.
“At the conclusion of the fact-finding judgment I found each of the mother’s core allegations, save for an assertion related to forced marriage, proved,” the judge stated.
Sheikh Mohammed’s response to this court ruling has been that it tells only one side of the story. He insisted that the case was a private matter. According to a report in the Financial Times, the judgment is unlikely to change the perception of the ruler in the UAE as the case has not been covered by the media in the country which is “a conservative and patriarchal society where public discussion of the ruling families’ private lives is frowned upon”.
Princess Latifa Timeline
Princess Latifa’s older sister Shamsa escapes while on holiday with other members of the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s family at their Surrey estate. The sheikh launches a search for her, but doesn’t inform the police – his men track her down in Cambridge over a month later.
In an email to her solicitor, Shamsa says she was bundled into a car by four Arab men and driven to her father’s house in Newmarket, where she was injected and given tablets. The next morning, she is flown back to Dubai on a private plane.
Latifa makes her first escape attempt aged 16. She tries to get across the border of UAE and Oman but is caught and brought back to Dubai, where she is jailed for three years and four months. She says she was kept in solitary confinement and tortured.
Latifa meets Tiina Jauhiainen, a fitness instructor hired to teach her a Brazilian martial art called capoeira. They become close friends. Latifa’s movements are restricted – she’s not allowed to have a passport, drive or leave Dubai.
Latifa contacts Herve Jaubert, a French businessman who years before had successfully escaped Dubai after being convicted in absentia of embezzlement. Over the next few years, they plan her escape in detail and Tiina Jauhiainen is enlisted as an aide and go-between.
Early February 2018
Latifa records a video documenting her life and plans. She calls it a “just in case” video and sends it to a group of trusted people with instructions to publish it if the escape fails. It details the restrictions she is under in Dubai, her first escape attempt and her plan to leave Dubai and claim asylum.
24 February 2018
Latifa and Ms Jauhiainen meet early in the morning and take a 26-mile trip by inflatable boat and jet ski to international waters, where Mr Jaubert is waiting in a US flagged yacht. They plan to head to India, from where Latifa hopes to fly to the United States and claim political asylum.
4 March 2018
Eight days into the journey, just off the coast of India, the boat is boarded by Indian special forces. Latifa and Ms Jauhiainen hide in the bathroom, but smoke grenades make it hard for them to breathe and they make their way to the top of the deck, where they are held at gunpoint. Latifa is dragged off the boat. Ms Jauhiainen and the crew are detained in a high security facility in the UAE before being released two weeks later.
11 March 2018
The anti-UAE pressure group Detained in Dubai release her video and Ms Jauhiainen begins to tell her story to the world.
5 December 2018
The day before the release of a BBC documentary telling the story of Latifa’s escape attempt, the government of Dubai publishes a statement saying that Latifa and her sister Shamsa are “adored and cherished” by the family. They say that Latifa is now “safe in Dubai” and is celebrating her birthday “in privacy and peace”.
24 December 2018
The UAE Foreign Ministry releases three photos of Latifa from a 15 December lunch with one of Sheikh Mohammed’s wives, Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, and Mary Robinson, a former UN human rights commissioner. This is the first time anyone has seen Latifa since the failed escape.
Three days later, Mary Robinson appears on the BBC’s Today Programme where says she was asked to visit Latifa by Princess Haya. She describes Latifa as a “troubled young woman” who is receiving “psychiatric care.”
She immediately receives pushback from the international human rights community and campaign groups accuse her of pedalling the “Dubai line”.
Tiina Jauhiainen receives a message from a stranger claiming to be in contact with Latifa. After Ms Jauhiainen passes a number of security questions, she begins direct communication with Latifa and manages to get a phone to her.
Latifa begins recording video messages in which she describes the conditions she is being kept in: solitary confinement, the windows barred shut and no daylight.
In the months after they establish phone contact, Ms Jauhiainen, her lawyer David Haigh, and her maternal cousin Marcus Essabri have daily contact with Latifa.
On the 15 April, Princess Haya, the second “official wife” of Sheikh Mohammed, escapes Dubai to the UK with her two children, reportedly in fear of her life.
Haya, who became the Sheikh’s sixth wife in April 2004, is his only spouse with a public profile, and is often seen with him at events around the world.
14 May 2019
Sheikh Mohammed starts proceedings in the UK court to have his two children with Princess Haya returned to Dubai. Princess Haya applies for her children to become Wards of Court as well as a forced marriage protection order and non-molestation order.
5 March 2020
The High Court in the UK releases a fact-finding judgment which finds that on the balance of probabilities, Sheikh Mohammed was responsible for the abduction and forced return of both Shamsa and Latifa to Dubai.
The judge rules that the sheikh has waged a campaign of intimidation towards Haya and that he has not been open and honest with the court.
Later in 2020
David Haigh realises the messages to Latifa are not getting through. Contact with her is lost.
In her first interview since the pictures of her and Latifa were released in 2018, Mary Robinson says that Princess Haya and her were tricked by the sheikh, and that she is deeply worried about Latifa. She says she was blindsided when the UAE released the photographs of her and Latifa, and she admits that she regrets not seeing Latifa on her own, or asking her about her condition.
24 February 2021
UK police are passed a letter written by Latifa in 2019 urging them to re-investigate the kidnap of her sister Shamsa from a Cambridge street in August 2000. Cambridgeshire Police said the letter would be “looked at as part of the ongoing review” into the incident.
Princess Latifa Family:
Princess Latifa Father
Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is the daughter of Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. Latifa’s father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is one of the richest heads of state in the world, the ruler of Dubai and vice-president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Princess Latifa Mother
Princess Houria Ahmed Lamara is the mother of Princess Latifa.
Princess Latifa’s mother Houria Ahmed Lamara was born in Algeria.
Princess Latifa Sister
Princess Shamsa is the sister of Princess Latifa.