Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai released the following statement on the apparent asylum bid of Princess Haya, wife of the Ruler of Dubai:
“When Sheikha Latifa called me in early 2018, she wanted us to help her seek asylum. When she was dragged from the yacht Nostromo by UAE Special Forces in the Indian Ocean a few days later, she was screaming for asylum; saying that she would rather die than be returned to the UAE. Several months later, Latifa appeared in a highly orchestrated photo op alongside Mary Robinson and Princess Haya, looking dazed and sedated, and she has not been heard from since. So, I have no doubt that Princess Haya has every reason to fear the consequences if she were to be sent back to Dubai. She surely knows, as Latifa knew, that asylum provides her the only safe route out of the royal palace.
“The bias and discrimination women in the Gulf generally suffer is only amplified when they are members of the ruling family and come into conflict with the men in their lives, because they have even less recourse than an average woman. The UAE is a male-dominated society, and Princess Haya’s husband, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, wields absolute power over Dubai. If she was abused, she could not go to the police; if she wanted a divorce, she could not go to the courts. When Sheikh Mohammed posted a threatening poem against her online; for all intents and purposes, that constituted a violation of the UAE’s cybercrime laws, but she could hardly file a criminal complaint against the Prime Minister of the UAE.
Just as Latifa allegedly suffered indescribable abuse at the hands of Sheikh Mohammed, and had no option but to escape; Haya apparently found herself in a similar situation. Fortunately for her, she was able to get away.
“We have been told by reliable sources that Princess Haya did not see Latifa since participating in the disastrous attempt last December with Mary Robinson to allay fears about Latifa’s well-being, and until now the UAE has refused to cooperate with a United Nations inquiry about her abduction. Haya parroted the official line at the time that the issue was a private family matter, and today Mary Robinson is repeating this line with regard to Princess Haya. But we said then, and we say now that human rights violations, abuse, and unlawful detention are not private family matters; they are crimes; and the victims must be protected, and the witnesses need to testify about what they know. Princess Haya, in all likelihood, is both a victim and a witness; and thus we hope she will remain safe, and that she will also cooperate with international authorities to expose the alleged abuses going on behind the doors of the Dubai Royal Palace.
“This is crucial, not least of all because it will help to expose the abuses occurring in the broader society as well. In recent years, Sheikh Mohammed, once regarded as the most liberal and forward-thinking leader in the Arab world, has single-handedly undone decades of image-building in Dubai. The world has now realised that the UAE, like Saudi Arabia, is a country which views adult women as permanent minors; where rape victims can be jailed for ilicit sexual intercourse, and where daughters and wives -- regardless of their elite status -- can be pursued and forcibly seized and returned to abusive families.
“Princess Haya is certainly not the only woman in the UAE who has wanted to flee, and she is not the only woman in the UAE who had no option but to flee in order to live an independent life, free from repression . Latifa tried and failed. Others, like Hind Al Balooki, barely escaped and are struggling to gain refugee status abroad; and still others are suffering in silence, with no means or opportunity to get out.
“We owe it to Princess Haya to support her bid for asylum, and she owes it to Latifa and all the women of the UAE, to speak out against the abuses of the men in power in that country, and the system over which they preside that dis-empowers and suppresses the female population.”
Radha Stirling, is founder and CEO of UK / USA based legal and human rights organisation Detained in Dubai, Expert Witness and respected analyst of Middle East Policy.
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