New videos have emerged showing Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum claiming to be held against her will. This has sparked concern about human rights violations in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Latifa is the daughter of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE.
In the video, Latifa says she is being held hostage in a villa disguised as a jail. She claims that her father has been holding her since she was caught trying to flee Dubai in 2018. In her escape, Latifa drove to Oman where she boarded a yacht to India. From there, her plan was to fly to the United States and seek asylum. Her vessel was intercepted before she reached India by Indian commandos and Emirati agents. Everyone was arrested on board and Latifa was sent back to Dubai.
Her father or any UAE officials have not replied to the videos. However, UAE officials have spoken out stating that this is a family affair and she is not being held in custody. Latifa’s father is widely respected by the West. He’s been pictured with U.K.’s Queen Elizabeth II and Pope Francis.
Human rights activist hopes the videos will bring more attention to the kingdom and its abusive behaviors, rather than the big business and sunny vacations that it is known for. Executive director of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, tweeted: “When you think of Dubai, don’t let the high rises and its playground reputation obscure the fact that it is ruled by this man, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who has locked up his daughter, Princess Latifa, for wanting to escape from his control.”
According to Human Rights Watch, the UAE has been known to detain people who criticize or condemn authorities. Hundreds of activists and scholars are serving prolonged sentences. In many cases due to unfair trials on indefinite charges. UAE’s laws also discriminate against women, migrants and LGBTQ individuals, and the state security apparatus are known to harass families of detained activists.
Devin Kenney, a Gulf researcher at Amnesty International, says, “There’s absolutely no freedom of expression.” He added, “You absolutely cannot speak without fear in the UAE.”
Western allies have ignored human rights violations in the UAE. In the last months of the Trump administration, officials had negotiated a $23.3 billion arms trade. It was the biggest arms deal ever made between the U.S. and UAE. The Biden administration put a halt on the deal until an investigation of Latifa is concluded.