On Thursday, December 6 BBC2 will air Escape from Dubai: the Mystery of the Missing Princess, reporting to a global audience the story of Sheikha Latifa al Maktoum, daughter of the Ruler of Dubai, who fled the UAE after allegedly years of abuse, only to be recaptured in a violent raid at sea; calling into question the image of the Emirates as a modern, liberal country
The UAE celebrates its National Day this week; within the insulated, media-censored bubble of Dubai and Abu Dhabi self-congratulations will abound. Flags will be on display; outside buildings, in shop windows, or waved ecstatically by young men in white kanduras and sunglasses standing through the sunroofs of expensive cars, horns and radios blasting. Inside the UAE, they are proud; proud of their wealth, proud of their global standing and influence in the region. They believe they are a respected nation; tolerant, moderate, and forward-thinking; because that is what their media report about them. But, later this week, a one hour BBC2 documentary will seriously puncture that highly-controlled self-image.
Escape from Dubai: the Mystery of the Missing Princess will air on Thursday at 9pm UK time, and many UAE residents will see for the first time the shocking story of Sheikha Latifa, the daughter of the Ruler of Dubai; allegedly abused by her father for years until she finally attempted to escape, only to be captured at sea in a violent raid, and never to be heard from again.
Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, appears in the film, “When the BBC2 documentary airs, Latifa will have been missing for 277 days. The UAE has refused to acknowledge their illegal attack on the American vessel from which she was abducted, and completely ignored a United Nations enquiry into her enforced disappearance.” Stirling said, “Given Latifa’s grave allegations against her father, Sheikh Mohammed, and considering the fate of Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of the UAE’s ally Saudi Arabia; we are deeply worried about Latifa’s welfare”.
Summarising the documentary on its website, BBC2 says, “In February this year, the 32 year-old daughter of the ruler of Dubai boarded a boat and set sail for India with a plan to start a new life in America. But within days her boat was stormed by Indian commandos - she was captured and presumably returned to Dubai.” The film also reports on the earlier abduction of Latifa’s sister Sheikha Shamsa from the streets of Cambridge in 2000 when she attempted to escape the repressive grip of her father. The documentary “asks if the image of Dubai we are sold - of winter sunshine and luxury hotels - is actually hiding a brutal dictatorship of human rights abuses, where surveillance, imprisonment and torture are systematic and where tourists can easily be imprisoned for the slightest infringements of the state's ultra conservative laws.”
“After working on Latifa’s behalf for nearly a year, we are very glad BBC2 has produced this film to bring her story to a global audience.” Stirling explains, “The UAE has manufactured an image of itself which, unfortunately, covers up the reality of what is, in fact, a tremendously unjust system. We have seen the Emirates moving in a dangerous and belligerent trajectory, at an accelerated pace over the past year; and the government is increasingly displaying the hallmarks of despotism. The international community is beginning to recognise that the UAE has been deceiving us; about their values, about their allegiances, about their commitment to the rule of law, and about their respect for freedom and tolerance; we expect this documentary to further open the eyes of the world to the true face of the UAE.”