1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Princess Latifa says she is detained in Dubai — leaked video

February 16, 2021

The daughter of the Dubai emir and UAE prime minster said she was a "hostage" in a "jail villa" in a video recorded months ago and now released by her friends who fear for her safety after losing contact with her.

Human rights organization Amnesty organized a demonstration to free Princess Latifa Al Maktoum of Dubai in Finland in 2019.
Princess Latifa tried to escape on a sailing boat in 2018, but Indian security at sea took her back to the UAEImage: Martti Kainluainen/Lehtikuva/picture alliance

daughter of Dubai's ruler said she was being held against her will in a villa after she tried to flee the country in 2018, according to leaked footage published on Tuesday. 

Princess Latifa appeared in videos released by UK broadcasters the BBC and Sky News on Tuesday. She had not been seen in public since her latest attempted escape. Her friends told the BBC they had elected to release the old footage in the hope of increasing pressure on her father in Dubai.

"I am a hostage and this villa has been converted into a jail," Latifa said in video extracts published by the BBC ahead of the airing of its investigative program Panorama.

"All the windows are barred shut, I can't open any window," she said, adding that she was recording the video from the bathroom, as it was the only room where she could have privacy.

She says she is recording the videos with a cellphone from a bathroom in the building.

The ruler of the Emirate of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is also the UAE's prime minister and vice president, has received backlash for the alleged treatment of his daughters. He has not responded to the recent allegations.

The UAE and Dubai had previously responded to allegations of her being held against her will by saying she was safe and in the care of her family.

Rights groups pressure for the princess' release

Since the princess' attempt to flee in 2018, her case has attracted international attention, as human rights organizations long called for her release. 

The Free Latifa campaign, a group that has lobbied for her release, said that it had smuggled a phone to the princess.

One of the campaign’s founders, David Haigh, told Reuters that the case had destroyed the UAE’s reputation, as a violation of human rights. 

Kenneth Roth, executive director of advocacy group Human Rights Watch, called on the UAE government to put an end to the case.

"It's as if her father, the Dubai ruler, is trying to subject her to such mental cruelty that she finally gives up and accepts life controlled by him,” Roth said.  

UK court rules against Al Maktoum 

Last year, a UK judge said that Al Maktoum had ordered the abduction of his daughters. 

Princess Haya Bin Al Hussein, Al Maktoum's ex-wife, had taken the custody battle to court in London, where she lives with her two children. 

Al Hussein accused Al Maktoum of kidnapping his daughters from a previous marriage; Shamsa and Latifa. 

Shamsa was abducted from Cambridge in 2000, when she was 18-years old and taken back to the UAE. 

Latifa reportedly tried to escape twice — once in 2002 and again in 2018, when Indian security forces caught her off the coast and she was returned to Dubai. 

fb/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)