When Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum, the daughter of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed, disappeared in March of last year after a failed attempt to escape the country, the only clue as to what had happened was a video in which she warned that she would likely be “dead or in a really bad situation” if her family recaptured her.
In December, Sheikh Mohammed confirmed for the first time that his daughter was alive when he told reporters that she was happily celebrating her 33rd birthday with her family “in privacy and peace.” Her escape attempt, he claimed, was actually a failed kidnapping by criminals who wanted to ransom her. In subsequent months, the story of the princess’ plight has continued to develop as human rights activists and close friends of the Sheikha continue to insist that she is being imprisoned and drugged by her family — even as former Ireland president and U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, who met with Latifa at the family’s request, has come out as a prominent supporter of the Sheikh’s version of events.
On Christmas Eve, the family released the first public photos of Latifa since her disappearance, showing her sitting with Robinson. According to Robinson, Latifa is a “troubled young woman” with a “serious medical condition” who is being treated for psychiatric problems.
“This is a family matter now,” said Robinson.
But Latifa’s friend and skydiving coach, Stefania Martinengo, doesn’t buy the family line. Latifa, she said, had previously endured more than three years of solitary confinement by her family over a prior escape attempt. And Latifa’s sister, Shamsa, has allegedly been kept drugged and imprisoned by the family since a failed attempt at escaping into England nearly two decades ago.
“I know 100 percent for sure that she doesn’t need mental care,” said Martinengo of her longtime friend and companion. “Maybe now, after all these treatments, but not before. How can you think that a person who’s been in prison for nine months wouldn’t seem troubled?”
Read the full story at The New York Times.