Princess Haya, the sixth wife of Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, fled Dubai and her marriage to start a new life. She took her seven-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter, along with $31 million dollars.
According to reports on June 29th, 2019, Princess Haya, 45, traveled first to Germany then London. She is said to be staying at her a home near Kensington Palace, with tight security, and is intent on fighting the legal battle brought by her husband from the UK.
In the meantime, Sheikh al-Maktoum, 69, who accuses her of betraying their marriage with her British bodyguard, has taken to social media in poetry and prose, condemning her flight and “disowning” his wife.
Princess Haya’s story gives hope to other women in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who have dreamed of escaping the country. She’s now being called on to help free Sheikha Latifa of Dubai, a daughter of Sheikh al-Maktoum.
Princess Latifa made headlines in April of 2018 when she fled Dubai via a yacht in order to escape “years of torture and imprisonment by her father.” Her yacht was intercepted and she was dragged back home.
Insight into conditions for women in Dubai are often difficult to come by. The question of what women are dealing with can be speculations or a story of he-said/she-said.
However, a related story coming out of London offered some clarity into what it’s like to live under the billionaire Dubai ruler as a part of his family.
In January of 2019, Sheikh al-Maktoum turned his UK estate into what neighbors describe as a “prison camp,” with the installment of a high fence more suitable for a prison than a home. This despite the fact that security presence at the estate was already in place with guards, CCTV and layered fences.
The added security may have been a response to a 2000 incident where the sheikh’s other daughter, Sheikha Shamsa (Princess Latifa’s younger sister) escaped the estate. Latifa has since claimed that Shamsa “was being kept in a drugged state. … in Dubai and was ‘like a zombie.’”
There are a significant number of stories coming forward of women from privileged families desperately looking to escape. However, Princess Haya’s case is exceptional, fleeing with a hefty purse and her children, while negotiating diplomatic channels for asylum.
It’s unlikely Princess Haya will be dragged back kicking and screaming because of who she is outside of her marriage to the Dubai ruler. Princess Haya bint Hussein is the half-sister of the King of Jordan, King Abdullah II. However, that fact also ties more knots into an already fragile diplomatic entanglement between the UK, Jordan, and the UAE.