Princess Haya, who is battling her husband, Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, in a U.K. court, is the third princess who has sought to escape the Gulf emirate in recent years. Activists say the attempts by the princess and two of Sheikh Mohammed’s daughters to escape the United Arab Emirates (UAE) throw a harsh spotlight on the country’s rights record, even as it tries to present a glitzy and modern image to the West.
In 2000, Sheikha Shamsa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum tried to escape the family’s entourage during a holiday in England but was reportedly picked up two months later and forcibly returned to Dubai. And in 2018, another daughter, Sheikha Latifa, fled Dubai before being allegedly captured at sea off India. Supporters released a harrowing video, purportedly by her, in which she describes her living conditions. Princess Haya, 45, the half-sister of Jordan’s King Abdullah and an Olympic equestrian for her native Jordan, surfaced this year in Britain, where she has applied for a forced marriage protection order. A British judge said Wednesday that her case will be heard in the high court in November.
The 70-year-old sheikh married the princess in 2004 in what was believed to be his sixth marriage. He has more than 20 children by different wives. The cases have tarnished efforts by Sheikh Mohammed, who is also prime minister of the UAE and a familiar figure on the global horse racing circuit as founder of the Godolphin stables, to present Dubai as a model of modernity in the Middle East.