A Tale of Princesses, Fabulous Wealth And Unimaginable Human Rights Violations
Princess Haya of Jordan, for many, is a feminist icon. She, along with her sister-in-law Queen Rania of Jordan, and her step-mother, Queen Noor of Jordan, is often referred to as one of “the Supermodel Queens of the Middle East.” The Princess’ 2004 marriage to the ruler of Dubai has been portrayed to the public as a modern-day fairy tale-until now. On August 4th, 2019, the Princess appeared in court requesting a “forced marriage protection order,” presumably on behalf of her daughter, and a “non-molestation order,” on behalf of herself. (1) The following day, news sources around the world proclaimed that Princess Haya and her children had barely escaped from Dubai with their lives, and now remain in hiding, seeking legal protection from the British government.
Born to King Hussein and Queen Alia of Jordan in 1974, Princess Haya has lived in the royal spotlight since the day of her birth. Following the death of her mother in a tragic helicopter crash, the American-born Queen Noor of Jordan stepped in and continued raising the young girl. Princess Haya ultimately grew into an Oxford-educated, horse-riding champion, participating in equestrian events around the world. As a result, she signified the very best of Islam, and how the women of this religion can still be independent, intelligent, successful and even beautiful.
In 2004, at the age of twenty-nine, Princess Haya traveled to Dubai, as a special guest of its ruler, Sheikh Mohammed Al Rashid Al Maktum. Shortly thereafter, the pair celebrated their marriage in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Following the celebration, the world-wide press revealed the already existing marriage of Al-Maktoum to his first cousin. In response to this apparent criticism, Princess Haya stated that at the time of her mother’s marriage to King Hussein of Jordan, he had actually been married to his first wife, the British born Princess Muna. As a result, Princess Haya indicated that she felt quite comfortable being a second wife. The pictures of their Highnesses at Royal Ascot appeared to echo this sentiment, as they moved easily in the rarified air of fancy hats, designer dresses and smiling faces.
Eventually, the cracks started to show in the perfect facade of the Al Maktum family. Problems appeared to begin in March 2018, when one of Al Maktum’s daughters, Latifa, released a video in which she described her torment and the torment of her sister, Shamsa, at the hands of their “ego” driven father. (2) Latifa discusses in the video her intentions of escaping, and that if people are watching the video, she has likely been captured and perhaps even murdered. (2) Shortly thereafter, reports came in that Latifa had indeed attempted to escape, and been violently apprehended by armed guards in India. (3) The following December, the former President of Ireland and former UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, traveled to Dubai and visited with Latifa. Following the meeting, she indicated the Latifa did not appear to be in any danger but also described her as a “troubled young woman.” (4) Just as the dust appeared to be settling on this issue, reports emerged in August that Princess Haya, herself, had fled Dubai with her children, barely escaping with her life. Shortly thereafter she appeared in court, and now is in hiding.
Most troubling of all appears to be the online smear campaign being launched against Princess Haya. Some online sources claim Princess Haya simply left Al Maktoum for another man, while others claim he actually caught her in bed with a bodyguard. (5) From there, the articles degrade, with remote websites asserting Princess Haya has been a woman “of extreme liberty” since her youth, who is “perverted” and “on drugs.” (6) Some even accuse her stepmother, Queen Noor, of drugging her since childhood. (7) Such claims are completely unsubstantiated. On January 5th, 2019, Princess Haya publicly stated she would cease defending her husband and leave if she found evidence of truth in Latifa’s story of abuse. (7) Shortly thereafter, Princess Haya ceased appearing in public, and all of her social media accounts fell dormant. With her silence and subsequent estrangement from her husband, Princess Haya essentially confirmed the allegations of her step-daughter, Latifa.
The reality is that Dubai is a country wrought with human rights violations. It’s fantastic wealth has not advanced beyond a culture that is still, in many ways, stuck in the Stone Ages. The fact that Princess Haya’s marriage to Al Maktum broke down should serve as a wake up to us all that the world is not always a friendly place for women, and to many, we are still property, or worse, even slaves. Furthermore, all royal marriages are not fairytales, even if that initially appears to be the case. The court case of Princess Haya versus Al Maktoum promises to lay bare the truths of life in Dubai, in full detail. Only time will tell how deeply the corruption runs and how many people have been hurt.