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Culture

Princess Haya Of Dubai Is Seeking Political Asylum To Save Her Daughter From Child Marriage

By S.G. Cheah·· 6 min read
Princess Haya Flees Dubai

Among the biggest Royal scandals you may not have heard of today is the divorce between the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum, and his wife, the Jordanian Princess Haya. Even though Meghan and Harry are still dominating the press regarding news of Royals, there’s another significant Royal scandal you need to pay attention to - the story about Princess Haya and why she has fled to the West.

Princess Haya was one of the many wives (#6) of the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum. Born of Jordanian Royalty, she is the half-sister of Prince Abdullah, husband of the very popular and beautiful Queen Rania of Jordan. The Jordanian royal family, if you’re unaware, closely resembles the British model: Princes and princesses have patronage, run organizations, and are highly visible. Princess Haya of Jordan, however, fell for a man who ran a very different kind of monarchy, Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai.

King Hussein and Queen Alia with their children Prince Ali and Princess Haya, 1976

Haya married Sheikh Mohammed in 2004 and was known as his “public wife” because she was perhaps the only wife of the Emir of Dubai who was often seen accompanying him on his official royal engagements. Modern and glamorous, she was seen as a natural fit for this role because she represents a more conventionally Western image of women in the Middle East as contrasted to the more stereotypically oppressed, hijab covered women in the Arab world. 

Modern and glamorous, Haya was seen as a natural fit for this role because she represents a more conventionally Western image of women in the Middle East.

But on April 15, 2019, Princess Haya left Dubai with her children Sheikha Jalila (12 years old) and Sheikh Zayed (8 years old) to reside in the United Kingdom. There, she is seeking the protection of the British courts to grant her custodial rights of her children from the Emir because she was said to be “afraid for her life.”

The Atrocities of a Ruthless Father

Her husband, the wealthy and powerful Sheikh Mohammed, 70, has a history of a strong relationship with the British Royal family, due to the mutual interest of horse racing he shares with Queen Elizabeth. But unlike the British Queen, the Sheikh isn’t as lenient in his treatment towards his own family members; on the contrary, he is quite ruthless.

Sheikh Mohammed, Princess Haya, their daughter Jalila, and Queen Elizabeth at the Epsom Derby Festival, Surrey, in 2018.

For example, he ordered the capture and torture of his own two daughters Princess Shamsa and Princess Latifa (whose fate is still unknown today). Their father has been accused of kidnapping each of them, once in 2000 where Shamsa tried to escape from her father’s $130 million estate in Surrey, UK, when she was 18-years-old. She was found in nearby Cambridge and forcibly returned to Dubai, where no official news has since been heard about her, but she is said to have been imprisoned and beaten.

He ordered the capture and torture of his own two daughters Princess Shamsa and Princess Latifa.

Years later, in 2018, her sister Latifa tried to escape as well, crossing the border into Oman and then riding for hours on jet-skis, before meeting a former French Navy officer named Jean-Pierre Herve Jaubert who was waiting for her on his yacht. From there, they sailed to Goa in India, where an Indian-UAE commando unit intercepted the yacht, abducted Latifa and sent her back to Dubai.

What Drove Princess Haya To Flee?

The tabloids had been rife with speculation about the reasons for Princess Haya’s departure from the United Arab Emirates. One theory is that she fell in love and had an affair with her British bodyguard who incentivized her escape. The other theory of her flight is that she is part of a conspiracy to overthrow her husband’s rule, orchestrated by Dubai’s silent rival Qatar. 

The British bodyguard who was speculated to have developed a close friendship with Princess Haya.

But if you ask me, instead of subscribing to conspiracy theories, I look to the theory of Occam’s Razor when it comes to understanding why Princess Haya fled from the UAE. As Occam’s Razor states: "the simplest explanation for some phenomenon is more likely to be accurate than more complicated explanations."

The reason why Princess Haya wanted to escape is simple: she is a mother who feared for the future of her children.

The reason why Princess Haya wanted to escape is simple: she is a mother who feared for the future of her children. She is a mother looking out for her children. According to statements made by Princess Haya during their divorce proceedings, the Sheikh arranged for their 12-year-old daughter to be married off to a Saudi Prince, a man who was 22 years the girl’s senior.  

How Latifa Inspired Princess Haya

Haya had every reason to fear for the well-being of her children. As stated previously, the Sheikh has a history of brutalizing his own daughters, his own flesh and blood. In a video that Princess Latifa made before her attempted escape in which she described the utter horrors of her mistreatment, Latifa mentioned how she was disappointed that her own mother (one of the Emir’s many wives) didn’t lift a finger to help save or protect her from her father’s brutality. 

Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Latifa's mother failed her, and Princess Haya isn't going to fail her own daughter. She is doing what every responsible and brave mother would do, and that is to leave a situation where there is a potential for abuse. If the fact that the Sheikh had arranged for his own daughter (who was 11 years old at the time) to marry a man 22 years her senior doesn’t upset you, you should also know that the girl would be the Saudi Prince’s second wife.

Jamal Khashoggi (left) and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is accused of ordering Khashoggi's brutal murder. This Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has also been criticized for being behind the assassination, imprisonment, and brutal crackdown on his critics both at home and abroad. I don’t know about you, but if I were a mother, I wouldn’t wait around to watch my own 12-year-old daughter be lined up for a forced marriage to the man who allegedly ordered the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Closing Thoughts

While the Emir might not have abused Haya's own children, the fact that he would even do such a thing to his other daughters is a cause for serious concern. As a mother, it would be impossible for Haya not to imagine her own daughter going through the same unspeakable cruelties which Latifa says she suffered in her video. To picture her own daughter possibly being held down by a man while another man beats her to death under the order of the child's own father is unimaginable. 

No mother would want that to happen to her child. Princess Haya made the best decision to flee Dubai in order to protect her children from their cruel and inhumane father. The world needs to pay attention to the unfolding of Princess Haya’s flight and subsequent divorce because as his daughter Latifa said, her father (Sheikh Mohammed) only cares about his reputation and nothing else, not even the welfare of his own daughters. We need to stand with Princess Haya because by doing so, we will help condemn such unspeakable cruelty against women in the Middle East. 

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