Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, commented in a statement today about reports that Princess Haya, wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the UAE, has fled the Emirates and sought asylum in Germany:
“We have received multiple reports regarding the story of Princess Haya, from sources close to the governments in Jordan, and the UAE; all of which indicate that she has sought political asylum in Germany. We cannot comment on the veracity of these reports, but such an event would clearly represent a powerful indictment against the UAE and against Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid personally, as well as have potentially dramatic repercussions on the relationships between the countries involved.
“Whenever someone applies for political asylum, obviously, it is because their lives are in danger, and because they have suffered severe abuses and violations of their human rights. We already know that Princess Latifa, Sheikh Mohammed’s daughter, fled the UAE seeking asylum and alleging unspeakable abuse at the hands of her father. Now, it seems, Princess Haya, Sheikh Mohammed’s wife, has also fled the country and sought refuge in Germany.
“Obviously, this raises serious questions as to what prompted her to flee, and why she felt unable to simply file for divorce and relocate herself and her children without fear of reprisal from the Ruler of Dubai. She is, after all, a free adult woman, and the sister of the King of Jordan; yet apparently, she feels unsafe.
“Princess Haya was put in a position late last year of helping Sheikh Mohammed gloss over international concerns about the well-being of Princess Latifa after her capture, and subsequent disappearance. She met with Mary Robinson in an orchestrated photo op with a clearly dazed and listless Latifa, in a PR stunt that was widely criticised and damaged Haya’s standing in the human rights community. While we cannot speculate, Haya undoubtedly has witnessed, or experienced firsthand, the types of mistreatment alleged by Latifa, and decided to get out.
“Following Princess Latifa’s escape and capture, several high profile cases of women fleeing repression and abuse in the Gulf riveted the meda. From Rahaf Mohammed and Dua and Dalal Khalid in Saudi Arabia, to Hind AlBolooki in the Emirates; women in the Gulf States increasingly appear to reject male-dominated social orders that too often enable abuse and restrictions on the personal freedoms of women. Like Latifa, they literally risk their lives to escape, knowing that, regardless of their high status in society, regardless even of being a member of the royal family, they can face grave punishment and even death if they act independently.
“Relations between the UAE and Jordan are strong, and Jordan has backed the Emirates in their blockade of Qatar. The UAE has pledged considerable investment funds to Jordan, and new trade agreements have been made to strengthen ties between the two countries. It is significant that Haya fled to Germany rather than to her own country, possibly to spare her brother from the pressure that would inevitably be brought to bear by the UAE to send her back.
“The real questions now are, what prompted Haya to leave, and will she reveal those reasons?
“Since the Princess Latifa case, Sheikh Mohammed’s position in the Emirates has weakened dramatically, added to this are a catalogue of wrongful detentions and false prosecutions against foreigners in Dubai, all of which have been severely detrimental to the UAE’s image. Now, the wife of Dubai’s Ruler has fled under circumstances that are highly incriminating to the royal family. The significance of Princess Haya’s departure can not be overestimated, and it does not bode well for the future of Sheikh Mohammed’s reign.”