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Princess Haya's refuge in the UK threatens diplomatic crisis

Princess Haya is the sixth wife of the Emirati royal [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 July, 2019

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Relations between the UK and its Emirati ally could witness tension amid mounting criticism following reports of Princess Haya's escape to London.
Princess Haya Bint al-Hussein’s refuge in London could trigger a diplomatic crisis between the UK and the United Arab Emirates, amid mounting criticism of her husband Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai.

The 45-year-old half-sister of the king of Jordan reportedly planned her escape to London after learning about her husband's cruel treatment of his eldest daughter, Princess Latifa, who made headlines after attempting to escape last year.

Princess Haya has reportedly taken her case to a high court in London after fleeing her allegedly "abusive" husband last week.

The Jordanian royal applied for asylum in the UK where she has links with authorities and owns an £85 million house near Kensington Palace, The Guardian reported. 

Emirati authorities have yet to comment about the details of the case but reports suggest the Dubai royal family approached the UK government, a key ally for the Gulf state, for help in seeking Haya’s return.

But the UAE has not yet made progress in returning the runaway princess.

Princess Haya is reportedly under the protection a private security firm dubbed Quest, which is chaired by John Stevens, a former commissioner of the Metropolitan police.

The Guardian reported the Jordanian royal could claim diplomatic immunity as a further layer of protection from the Emirati government.

Last week, reports revealed the princess had taken her case to a high court in London after fleeing her allegedly "abusive" husband, prompting her husband Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum to allegedly pen a poem to her which was posted and later deletedf from Instagram.

The poem, titled "You Lived and You Died," is about disloyalty, leading to speculation it is about Princess Haya.

"You betrayed the most precious trust, and your game has been revealed," the poem says. "Your time of lying is over and it doesn't matter what we were nor what you are."

The harsh words caused reverberations and speculation throughout royal circles in the Middle East and beyond.

The princess and Sheikh Mohammed were married in 2004 and have a daughter, 11, and son, 7, together. Both were educated at elite English universities and they share a love for horses.

Read more: Princess Haya could flee what many UAE women cannot

On Friday, British press suggested the estranged wife of Dubai's wealthy ruler was suspected by her husband of having "inappropriate contact" with her British bodyguard, according to sources close to the family.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, 69, reportedly found Princess Haya, 45, with the bodyguard during a surprise visit to their £85m ($106.5m) home in London.

Princess Haya reportedly showered the British bodyguard with lavish gifts, sparking criticism and suspicion from other members of the royal family.

Infuriated after discovering the pair together in London, Sheikh Mohammed demanded his wife and the bodyguard return to Dubai, according to sources cited by The Times and Mail Online.

Runaway daughter

But Princess Haya is not the first total to flee the al-Maktoum dynasty in recent years.

Sheikh Mohammed's daughter, Latifa, allegedly attempted to flee the kingdom in a high-profile saga in April 2018, after releasing a video detailing years of horrific abuse and torture she suffered at the hands of her father and the Emirati authorities.

Latifa's friends and supporters say commandos stormed a boat she was using to flee to India.

Latifa has been seen only once since, in a photo with former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson who visited the Al Maktoum family residence in December 2018, which critics called a PR stunt.

Princess Haya also appeared in the photo op, which Stirling says "damaged [her] standing in the human rights community".

"While we cannot speculate, Haya undoubtedly has witnessed, or experienced firsthand, the types of mistreatment alleged by Latifa, and decided to get out," Stirling added.

She also said that strong economic ties between UAE and Jordan may have prevented Haya from fleeing to her home country, which would have put pressure on her brother to send her back to the UAE.

Various reports over recent years point to the extent of torture and human rights abuses in the wealthy Gulf kingdom. 

Women from neighbouring Saudi Arabia have been making high-profile appeals for asylum in recent months, the latest being sisters Dua and Dalal who fled to Turkey earlier this month after escaping alleged rape, forced marriage and abuse from their relatives.

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