WHEN the terrible plight of Princess Latifa Al Maktoum, the daughter of Dubai’s ruler, was highlighted this week, it raised many more questions than it answered.
Watching the secret video messages that Princess Latifa, who tried to flee the country in 2018, sent to friends was truly shocking.Hostage Princess Latifa shows the darker side to holiday paradise DubaiCredit: EPA The secret video messages that Princess Latifa sent to friendsCredit: BBC supplied by Pixel8000 07917221968
In the footage, shown on BBC1’s Panorama programme, she accused her father of holding her “hostage” as she feared for her life.
She also described being drugged by commandos after she was caught fleeing the country by boat and then sent back to detention.
The reasons for this remain unclear. But Latifa’s father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is one of the richest heads of state, the ruler of Dubai and vice-president of the United Arab Emirates.
He is also one of the world’s most successful owners and breeders of racehorses and is often seen at racing events with the Queen.
The videos of Latifa were recorded over several months on a phone she was secretly given about a year after her capture and return to Dubai.
She says the villa she is being held in has been turned into a “prison”, with bars on the windows. All her messages were recorded in the bathroom because that is the only room she can lock.Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is often seen at racing events with the QueenCredit: Getty Images - Getty Former UN rights envoy Mary Robinson met Latifa in 2018Credit: Alamy Live News
Somehow, it’s hard to believe the assurances from Dubai and the UAE that Princess Latifa is “safe in the care of family”, partly because her messages have now stopped. Friends are urging the UN to step in.
Former UN rights envoy Mary Robinson met Latifa in 2018 and described her as a “troubled young woman” — but now says she was “horribly tricked” by the princess’s family.
At the moment, the fate of Latifa is not publicly known. Of course, it may well be true that she is being safely cared for by her family.
But this story has raised some seriously disturbing — and perhaps lesser known — facts about the rights of women in Dubai.
Although women there are increasingly becoming business and government leaders, the Emirates also enforces the law of male guardianship.
'WE SHOULD ALL BE SHOCKED'
That essentially means that women, along with all their moves, are controlled by their husbands and fathers.
In order to work, women need permission from their husbands.
If they do not want to have sex with their husband they must have a “lawful excuse”.
Any unmarried women, including expat women, who turn up pregnant to hospital can be arrested. That includes, by the way, women who are miscarrying.
The other disturbing fact is that any woman who divorces her Emirati husband and seeks to remarry faces having to grant full custody of her children to the first husband.
All of this is worth reflecting on because it is so entirely at odds with our more familiar associations with Dubai as the HQ of glitz and glamour.
I know I am certainly having a rethink, as I have been there a few times, appreciating the weather but not reflecting on the conditions the women who live there are subjected to.Dubai is a popular destination that influencers escape toCredit: Instagram
It is ironic that the other reason Dubai has been in the news recently is as the destination that influencers are escaping to, including my own daughter, who was there before lockdown.
Indeed, it is often painted as a bit of a paradise. After all, the weather is always amazing and it’s full of luxury high-rise hotels, swimming pools, fabulous restaurants and glamorous bars.
Many people see it as the ultimate holiday destination and an enviable place to live.
But it is disturbing to stop and think what could be going on behind the doors of all those magnificent palaces and luxurious apartments.
This story about Princess Latifa highlights the shocking inequalities between men and women and the degree to which women are controlled by the men in their lives. We should all be shocked.
And I have to confess, it has certainly made me think twice about whether or not I will be rushing to go back there on holiday.
Harry risks being a Mister
At 94, with a husband spending his fourth night in hospital, the Queen was forced to issue a statement on Friday.
It confirmed she has stripped the Duke and Duchess of Sussex of their honorary military titles and royal patronages, on the basis of their decision to “step away from the work of the Royal Family”.Harry and Meghan have stepped away from the Royal FamilyCredit: Getty - Pool The Queen has stripped the Duke and Duchess of Sussex of their honorary military titles and royal patronagesCredit: Getty - Pool
She took the decision that they could not retain the titles because “it is not possible to continue with the responsibilities and duties that come with a life of public service” when you are living it up in the USA.
Having met the Queen a number of times, one of the highlights of my life was having lunch with her at Buckingham Palace.
She is devoted to her country and to her family, but her sense of duty and honouring the pledge she made at 21 years old to put her duty above anything else, I suspect was the guiding force behind this decision.
For her, the perception of the monarchy, what it stands for, the integrity it has, meant that the decision – which I suspect was not taken lightly or happily – would have been made on the basis you are either fully devoted to your royal duties or you are not.
So, bearing in mind they have moved to the US and signed a deal with Netflix and Oprah Winfrey, I suspect she came to the conclusion they are not only devoted to their royal work.
The Sussexes’ tart response to Her Majesty that, “we can all live a life of service. Service is universal” is petulant and disrespectful.
If they don’t watch themselves, the next step will be to remove them of their royal titles “Duke and Duchess” . . . and then they will just be plain old Harry and Meghan from Montecito – and let’s see how much Netflix will pay for that.
Testy over pupils
It makes perfect sense that the safest way for children to return to school is for them to have regular Covid tests.
And I know the question of who will do those tests has been a bone of contention between school heads and union leaders.The safest way for children to return to school is for them to have regular Covid testsCredit: PA:Press Association
At the moment it is an unconfirmed rumour that the tests will be done by parents, which some have been griping about as they feel the teachers should be the ones who do the tests on their children, not them.
But I urge any parent who is reluctant to do it to give their head a wobble.
Any parent who has been home-schooling on and off for the past year surely wants to ensure the school remains a safe place to return to.
Yes, sure, it sounds like weekly Covid tests are another chore that parents are going to have to add to the list of daily jobs.
And yes, I know, the testing isn’t pleasant. But if someone is going to be sticking a giant Q-tip up your child’s nose wouldn’t you rather it was you than anyone else?
Also, it takes time to do the tests. If a parent does the test it takes five minutes. If a teacher does a class of 30 kids it will take more than two hours.
Teachers are there to teach, and most of us now know just how hard that is.
The real question is why would we even consider asking them to take up time doing tests that are easy, straight-forward and can be done at home?
Surely all parents have one preoccupation right now and that is how the hell will we get our kids back into school?
But we can’t have it all ways and we need to muck in to get the country going again.
Nan behaving badly
As excuses go, the 44-year-old woman who ran off with the father of her 24-year-old daughter’s new baby saying, “these things happen”, is a bit of a shocker.
I’m sure we all felt bad this week for Jess Aldridge, who, when she was expecting her second child with 29-year-old boyfriend Ryan Shelton, formed a support bubble with her mother Georgina and her husband Eric at their Gloucestershire home.I’m sure we all felt bad this week for Jess AldridgeCredit: Dan Charity - The Sun
Just days after Jess gave birth, Ryan ran off with Georgina, leaving Jess with a toddler and a newborn.
It’s tempting to ask what kind of woman runs off with her son-in-law. In my book she has lost more than she has gained.
But what I really want to know is, what kind of man leaves his partner high and dry with a toddler and a newborn?
It’s hard to choose between the two of them, or know which is the more selfish.
It is, of course, fantastic news that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has announced its most gender-inclusive ballot of all time.
This year also marks the most racially diverse class of potential nominees since 2006, and includes legends such as Tina Turner.Potential nominees include legend Tina TurnerCredit: Getty - Contributor
But how on earth is Tina Tuner not already in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame She should be the chairman of it, not a nominee.
Apparently, for every female bandleader inducted, her male bandmates also go into the hall of fame.
Which means that, over the course of 34 years, that process has yielded 69 women out of 888 inductees – or fewer than eight per cent.
I guess discrimination has no boundaries.
Amanda knows how to Holden to her youth
It has been a turbulent week for Amanda Holden, who dodged a fine after being reported to police for making a 215-mile trip from London to
Cornwall to visit her parents.Celebrating her 50th birthday, Amanda Holden poses naked atop a giant cakeCredit: INSTAGRAM/AMANDA HOLDEN
But I defy anyone not to admire her spirit in celebrating her 50th birthday with this pose, naked atop a giant cake.
Just to say, this is not how I celebrated my 50th. Nor would I even consider doing so.
But I heartily admire Amanda’s chutzpah in deciding to enter her fifties with all guns blazing. Good on her.
Bangkok zoo horror
I WAS so disturbed at the photos of the animals in the Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm and Zoo in Bangkok.
They have been horrifically neglected.
When the Thai zoo reopened following the Covid lockdown, visitors found bears begging for food, emaciated tigers and cattle, crocodiles swimming in filthy water and orangutans desperately reaching out to tourists behind bars.
How can people be so heartless?
UN asks UAE for proof that Princess Latifa is still alive after secret ‘hostage’ videos sparked fears she was dead
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