On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, Princess Haya, the estranged wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, was represented in London courts in the next leg of the couple’s custody battle over their two children. While it’s been unclear since news broke that Haya fled the United Arab Emirates for Europe what the impetus for leaving was, we may some insight via her application for a forced marriage protection order for one of her children.
Her daughter, Sheikha Jalila bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is 11, and her son, Sheikh Zayed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is seven. It’s a pretty safe bet the protection order is on behalf of her daughter. (And FYI, the pictures I’m embedding through this post are from Tuesday and Wednesday, save the last one. These include protesters who turned up while the case was being argued earlier this week.)
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Maktoum sued for custody of the children and their return to Dubai. Earlier this month a statement was released confirming that the legal battle was focused on custody, and unrelated to either their divorce or financial settlement.
“The judge allowed the media to publish limited details about the case. Reuters said the forced marriage protection order related to one of the couple’s two children. In addition, the princess asked for both children to be made wards of court, PA reported. She also requested a non-molestation order for herself. After two days of legal argument, the judge ordered a full trial to begin on November 11. No other details could be disclosed.”
Meanwhile, news outlets have reminded the public that Haya is in fact the third woman in Maktoum’s family to flee abroad. In addition to his daughter, Princess Latifah, last year, another daughter, Princess Shamsa, attempted to get out back in 2000. While staying in Surrey, England that summer, she disappeared one day. A year later, a woman claiming to be Shamsa contacted British authorities and told them she had been kidnapped from a bar in Cambridge and forcibly returned to Dubai. It’s unclear what happened to her – the UAE has never provided an explanation and she hasn’t been seen since.
Last year, Latifah, in her video message said that Shamsa had been drugged when she returned to Dubai and in “a very bad state.” Her sister’s experience was part of what prompted her to get out, but she also claimed she had been tortured and imprisoned when she attempted to flee to Oman a few years earlier. Since her forced return last year, it’s unclear where Latifah is.
Unlike her two stepdaughters, Haya is in a slightly different position given that she’s the sister of the King of Jordan. A picture was posted to Twitter of her with her other brother, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, while her shirt bore the Jordanian flag. The message seems clear: she’s leaning heavily on her family’s protection.
What’s less clear is how this will impact the relationship between Jordan and the UAE, while the idea that British courts could have power over two Emirati royals (while they’re minors) is unprecedented.
I’ll certainly cover the next phase of this in November, and keep you updated if we learn anything more in the meantime.