You may have missed this news last week, but Princess Haya bint Hussein has left her husband, Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, by fleeing the UAE and seeking asylum in Europe. It’s unclear when exactly she left the country, but news coverage took off this past Friday when the UK courts were petitioned to hear the case.
As of right now, Haya and her two children are reportedly living in London, while Germany, which she initially petitioned for asylum, has approved her application in principle.
This is certainly outside the arena of British royalty, but this is pretty big royal news, so I’ve decided to cover it. First things first: who is Haya? She’s one of the biggest stars among Middle Eastern royalty, and is in fact a born princess. Her father was King Hussein of Jordan, making Jodan’s current king, Abdullah II, her half-brother. She married bin Rashid in 2004 and has two children with him, born in 2007 and 2012.
Several reports name Haya as bin Rashid’s sixth wife, however the exact number of his wives and children is open for debate. Based on hierarchy, Haya is often referred to as a “junior wife,” but it appears that some of the familial angst in Dubai is over the fact that upon marrying Haya, bin Rashid all but left his first wife, and as such, his eldest sons strongly dislike their stepmother.
The latest turn of events is only more bad news for the Emirati royals following a disturbing incident last year involving Princess Latifa. Bin Rashid’s daughter, Latifa, took to YouTube to criticize her father and the restrictions under which she lived, before attempting to flee Dubai and returning under duress after capture off India’s coast.
The official party line from the UAE was that Latifa was kidnapped, and Haya was among the senior-level officials and royals who helped “spin” the story by posing with Latifah in a series of photo ops to prove the young woman was unharmed. Human rights organizations now believe that Latifah is being held in captivity.
That Haya is choosing London as her home base isn’t surprising. She was educated in England and her family owns property in London. She also has a relatively strong relationship with the British Royal Family, and in fact her absence from Ascot this year was noticed by a number of royal watchers as unusual. Bin Rashid, however, was there, and it’s believed that prior to attending he was in Germany meeting over the details of the asylum and divorce case.
According to The Guardian:
“Requests are alleged to have been made to the UK through private Dubai channels seeking her return to the United Arab Emirates and she is believed to have been concerned about her personal safety in the UK. The Foreign Office, however, is understood to regard the matter as a private dispute. The UAE’s embassy in London has denied that it has been involved in any discussion of Princess Haya’s presence in the UK.”
Also from the same article:
“Radha Stirling, chief executive of the campaign group Detained in Dubai, which follows events in the Gulf state closely, said: ‘We already know that Princess Latifa, Sheikh Mohammed’s daughter, fled the UAE seeking asylum and alleging unspeakable abuse at the hands of her father. Now, it seems, Princess Haya, Sheikh Mohammed’s wife, has also fled the country and sought refuge in Germany.
‘Obviously, this raises serious questions as to what prompted her to flee … She is, after all, a free adult woman, and the sister of the King of Jordan; yet apparently, she feels unsafe.’
Lawyers for Sheikh Mohammed declined to comment about the case.”
Meanwhile, the UAE embassy in the UK released this statement:
“The UAE government does not intend to comment on allegations about individuals’ private lives. As for whether it has raised such an issue with its German or British counterparts, the answer is no.”
In a bizarre twist, on Friday bin Rashid took to Instagram to release a poem denouncing Haya’s actions. I’m going to let The Daily Beast’s commentary speak for itself:
“Although his poetic skills have often been the subject of private derision, few in the UAE’s closeted world have ever dared to criticize his musings.
The new poem, which appears to have been written by the prince in outrage at his wife’s decision to abscond with their son and daughter (Islamic law dictates that a woman who leaves her husband may not take the children) is particularly awful, even by his standards.
Entitled ‘You Lived and You Died,’ the poem is a furious meditation on betrayal, in which the poet accuses the unnamed subject:
‘You betrayer, you betrayed the most precious trust, and your game has been revealed.
‘Your days of lying are over and it doesn’t matter what we were and what you are.’”
In addition to taking the couple’s two children, some reports claim Haya also took £31 million with her and was assisted by a German diplomat, hence her original petition in Germany. This, however, is unconfirmed.
The Daily Beast notes that it’s unlikely there will be a serious attempt to force Haya’s return, and instead a civil divorce will go uncontested. Some of that is likely due to pressure from not only the international media and European legal systems, but also the UAE’s relationship with Jordan. King Abdullah has thus far been silent on his sister’s situation, but is likely closely involved behind-the-scenes. Per the same article:
“This is a sign, some believe, that regionally the UAE’s power is fading and it has no appetite for a propaganda war over the relationship with Jordan, where Haya, as the late king’s daughter and a prominent philanthropist, is a national icon.
“In return for leaning on Haya to keep embarrassing details about Dubai quiet, sources say, Jordan is likely to politely request vast influxes of capital investment, which they felt they were promised when the marriage first took place but did not materialize as hoped. Haya’s brother, King Abdulah II, is, however, innately cautious, and will be unlikely to overplay his hand—some 200,000 Jordanians work in the UAE and the remittances sustain Jordan’s economy.
“Relations between the UAE and Jordan are strong; Jordan has, for example, backed the Emirates in its blockade of Qatar. Sources say Haya may have fled to Europe rather than to her own country to spare her family from the pressure that would inevitably be brought to bear by the emirates to send her back.”
That’s all for now, but as the situation unfolds I’ll provide follow up posts.