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Culture

Unlike Harry And Meghan, This Arab Princess Was Kidnapped and Tortured When She Tried To Leave Her Royal Life

By S.G. Cheah·· 9 min read
Princess Latifa bbc
BBC

March 4, 2020 marks the 2 year anniversary of Princess Latifa’s capture in her bid to escape from her oppressive life under her tyrannical father, the Ruler of Dubai. She failed in her attempt to flee. This is her story and she needs you to hear it.

Lately, the biggest news about royalty has been about the Megxit scandal. The press, obsessed with Prince Harry stepping away from his role within the British Royal Family, has painted a picture of how the life of a Royal wasn’t working out for his American wife Meghan Markle. Understandably, the public had been unimpressed with Meghan because they counted on her to live up to royalty instead of abandoning it.

However, the fact that she and Harry were free to abandon their life as part of the British Royalty shows us the contrast between societies that protects the rights of an individual vs. societies which do not. Tragically for Princess Latifa, because she was born a woman in Dubai, her treatment as a Royal differs greatly from the Windsors because she lives in a society that does not respect any of her human rights.

Latifa’s Daring Escape

34-year-old Princess Latifa is the daughter of the ruler of Dubai, Sheik Mohd al-Maktoum, one of the richest and most powerful rulers on earth. In February 2018, Princess Latifa made a daring escape from her father’s brutality, but within days she was captured and brought back to Dubai against her will. Her fate is currently unknown.

This wasn’t Latifa’s first attempt to escape. She had tried to escape once before in 2002 but was caught and thrown into prison where she was beaten and tortured for nearly four years. The princess was brutalized by her own father just because she wanted to live free. 

But even the threat of death did not break Latifa’s spirit. She never gave up on her dreams of freedom. For seven long years, she plotted her escape again with the help of a former French navy officer Hervé Jaubert and her best friend Tiina Jauhiainen. On the fateful day of her escape, the princess was thrilled at not having to ride in the backseat of a car. It was the first and only time Latifa experienced what it felt like to ride shotgun in a car. 

Their plan was to sneak out of Dubai, drive to neighboring Oman where they'd meet with Jaubert, who would pilot the yacht, and one of his crew, who brought along Jet Skis. They rode the skis about 15 miles out to the boat, on which they planned to sail to India, and after that, fly to the United States. Tragically for Latifa, the Sheik intercepted their boat on international waters as it was heading to Goa, India, and she failed in her escape.  

The Video You Need To Watch

The world was made aware of Latifa’s plight because before she tried to escape for the second time, Latifa recorded a tell-all video as a form of insurance in case her plan to escape backfired. It’s a video I strongly urge you to watch because it sheds a light on the cruelty of life for a woman in the Arab world. 

What stood out the most was how she never shed a tear or got emotional in describing the unimaginable horrors she went through. Watch the pain of a woman who had been completely desensitized to her own suffering and trauma to understand why she was desperate to escape again, even at the cost of death. 

What Drove Her To Escape?

Latifa was determined to run away after her own older sister Princess Shamsa tried to do the same in 2000. Latifa adored her sister and looked up to her, telling us in the video how Shamsa “escaped because she didn’t have much freedom in Dubai. She didn’t have the freedom to do what anybody in the civilized world takes for granted.”

For seven long years, she plotted her escape again with the help of a former French navy officer Hervé Jaubert and her best friend Tiina Jauhiainen.

In a Guardian article reporting the disappearance of the princess 19 years ago, one of Shamsa’s friend in the United Kingdom, Lucy Stevenson, said how she was unsurprised by the news. She had known Shamsa to be a headstrong young woman, fascinated by the lives the Western girls at the stables of her father’s England estate were allowed to lead. 

“She just didn’t like authority, she didn’t want to be told what to do,” one friend said. “She could see through the close protection guys, she hated all the pomp and circumstance and all the yes sir, no sir.”

Live Free or Die

One of the most heartbreaking parts of Latifa’s video was when she told us how she imagined her life would be once she successfully escapes and is finally free. “I don’t know how I’ll feel just waking up in the morning and thinking: ‘I can do whatever I want today, I can go wherever I want, I have all the choices in the world like anyone does’.”

All she wanted was a life where she has the freedom to determine the course of her own life - the right to self-determination. The idea that her life belongs to her and her alone. Currently, under sharia law, the women’s right to life is determined by her male guardian. Women, as Latifa stated, are treated as subhumans and live their life in subjugated terror. 

We, the women in the West, could easily relate to Latifa’s spirit because, like her, we know we’re born with our inalienable rights to freedom. Latifa just happens to be in an unfortunate situation where she was born into a society that does not respect or protect her rights. 

I can freely and openly condemn her father, the Emir of Dubai, without a single ounce of fear because I know that America protects my right to free speech.

I can freely and openly condemn her father, the Emir of Dubai, without a single ounce of fear because I know that America protects my right to free speech. I owe this freedom to the Founding Fathers when they made the immortal declaration that “All men are created equal” as part of the creation of America. With that, I have every right to condemn Sheik Al Maktoum because I am equal to him — even if he is the ruler of Dubai. And so do you, if you’re under the protection of American rights.

This was the freedom Latifa yearned for and why she’s fighting so hard to obtain it. It’s a right we take for granted in America. But for Latifa, who has been denied freedom her whole life, it was something she recognized and cherished. The princess so desperately yearned for freedom that she was willing to die for it. Remember to keep her in mind whenever someone tries to take your liberty away from you.

Vigilance is crucial because there are just so many things we in the West take for granted. For example, we have the privilege of falling in love with whomever we want. You don’t need permission to fall in love with the person you choose. They may not love you back, but no one would stop you from pursuing your love. The same can’t be said for women in Latifa’s position because they do not have the right to determine who they can be with since women aren’t even allowed to be alone with a man under sharia law. 

The Hypocrisy of Uncaring Muslim Women with Power in America

My heart sank when I learned that had Latifa been successful in her escape, she would be safe enough to catch a flight to Florida, where she planned to claim political asylum. The princess would be able to walk around South Florida as she pleased, doing the things we take for granted like grocery shopping alone at Publix. She would have been able to live her life as a free person, something I get to do every single day because I live in America.

So it frustrates me when I see so many of Latifa's fellow Muslim women with power in America stand silent against the blatant and egregious violation of Latifa's human rights. Where is their outrage? I don't hear any advocacy on behalf of Latifa by Muslim women with political power in America like Ilhan Omar, Linda Sarsour or Rashida Tlaib. These Muslim women in America enjoy the rights and privilege which comes with being protected as a free person in America. Why aren't they using it to help free Latifa?  

All she wanted was a life where she has the freedom to determine the course of her own life - the right to self-determination.

The sad truth is, while I can employ everything I have to fight for Latifa, my voice will not carry the same weight as Omar’s, Sarsour’s, or Tlaib’s in the matter. Since I am not Muslim myself, my outrage will be viewed as simply the opinion of another ignorant outsider by people in the Arab world. Regardless, for us ordinary people, we can still do our best to speak up on behalf of the princess, cherish our freedom of speech, and exercise what is denied to Latifa. And if you have any semblance of moral conscience, I'd ask you to also boycott or speak out against the Dubai 2020 Expo.

Closing Thoughts

Latifa’s final words heard by Tiina Jauhiainen (her best friend who risked her own life to help Latifa with the escape) as the Sheik’s commandos snatched her away from freedom was “Don’t take me back to Dubai, just shoot me here now.” It’s almost impossible not to be galvanized by the Princess’s willingness to die for the freedom she desires. Her integrity commands the respect of us in the free world who likewise value our own right to freedom and liberty too. 

So here’s to you, Latifa. For inspiring courage. For fighting for your freedom. For never giving up despite the insurmountable odds against you. For being an intelligent woman who understands your inalienable rights to life and liberty. For boldly pursuing your happiness and for your ability to inspire one of the greatest stories of true friendship I’ve ever heard. For you, Princess Latifa, because you inspired me to fight for yours.

Thank you for reminding us in the free world that we must treasure our freedom and liberty. 

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