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Missing Dubai Princess Sheikha Latifa, A Voice for Middle Eastern Women Gone Silent

Dubai princess Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum (referred to as Sheikha Latifa), who disappeared in March of last year, was photographed in late December back in Dubai. However, it is unclear if she is still alive, sparking concern from the United Nations.

Prior to her disappearance, Princess Sheikha Latifa had never been allowed to leave Dubai. Her many requests to travel or study abroad were denied, her passport taken away, and she was denied access to any of her friends.

When Latifa’s sister attempted to escape years earlier, the other female children were kept close to home. Even at age 32, she had to be escorted by a chauffeur everywhere she went. What seemed like a life of luxury on the outside had quickly become a prison for the young woman.

Latifa’s first attempt to run away was met with solitary confinement for more than three years, including beatings and no access to medical care. Her older sister was drugged into complying to her father’s rules after she was recaptured.

All of this is allowed under Dubai law.

After years of careful planning, Latifa finally escaped in March 2018, setting sail for India and then the United States. Her family has denied her escape, calling it a kidnapping.

Soon after they set sail, however, the boat swarmed with armed men who worked quickly to tie Latifa up and bring her back home. She is reported saying, “Just shoot me here. Don’t take me back.”

Before her escape, she recorded a 40-minute video explaining why she had to run and what her life is really like as a princess under her father’s strict control. “I’m feeling positive about the future,” she says in the video. “I’m feeling like it’s the start of an adventure. It’s the start of me claiming my life, my freedom, freedom of choice.”

This could be a potential death sentence for her. It is known that her father cares more about protecting his image than his own family, and as the all-male recipients of the Gender Balance Index awards suggest, he doesn’t exactly champion women’s rights.

When her father heard the news of a documentary about Latifa’s escape, he quickly released pictures of his daughter meeting with the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson. Pictures from this meeting struck more concern, however, as Latifa seemed dazed and only held eye contact with Robinson. She hasn’t been seen since.

As Princess Sheikha Latifa said in her own video, “There’s no justice here, especially if you’re a female, your life is so disposable.”

Her family’s suspicious cover-up of her escape has dire consequences for Latifa, her sisters, and all the women of Dubai. It shows we have a long way to go in the fight for worldwide female equality and civil rights.

Featured Image by Ooopjfooo on Wikimedia
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

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