Ex-wife of Dubai royal live streams father's 'abduction'
Former Azerbaijani gymnast champion, Zeynab Javadli, said her husband Saeed bin Maktoum bin Rashid, the son of the former rule of Dubai Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, sent men to kidnap her members of her family and her three daughters.
In a video posted on Instagram, Jawadli confirmed she divorced Saeed bin Maktoum nine months ago before moving into her parents home.
Men working for Sheikh Saeed followed her there and abducted her father, she claimed in the video in which she can be seen in distress while talking to the camera.
The videos were shortly deleted from the popular social media platform but were uploaded onto YouTube on the Detained in Dubai account - a London-based organisation that has championed the causes of several foreigners imprisoned in the United Arab Emirates.
"It cannot be emphasised enough that this is an urgent situation," Radha Stirling, founder of Detained in Dubai said in a statement.
"Zeynab has already suffered at the hands of her ex-husband, the nephew of the Ruler; being left without basic utilities and access to movement; and now two generations of her family are in danger of being arbitrarily punished at the orders of the sheikh over his dispute with Zeynab," the statement said.
"She is herself in great danger of unlawful arrest and detention, and perhaps worse. The royal families in the UAE are used to operating with impunity, above the law, with no scrutiny from the rest of the world, including their allies," the statement added.
"Zeynab has been struggling for 9 months, in her own words, to redress her mistreatment through UAE authorities; but of course, no officials in Dubai would dare interfere in the family matters of the royal family," it said.
"She has no recourse except to the outside world through social media, to expose the oppression she and her children and now her parents are enduring at the hands of Sheikh Saeed. It is imperative that we respond promptly and decisively to support her," the statement concluded.
The plight of women members of the Emirati royal family has made several headlines in recent years.
In February 2018, Princess Latifa - daughter of Dubai ruler and UAE Vice-President and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Al-Maktoum - attempted to escape the UAE with the help of her Finnish capoeira instructor Tiina Jauhiainen and former French Navy officer Hervé Jaubert.
She was caught by armed Indian coastguards a little over a week after her attempt and allegedly forced to return to her father's home.
Princess Latifa has not been seen in public since December 2018, when she was photographed with former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and former President Ireland Mary Robinson. Activists dubbed the photo-op as a PR stunt by Dubai's ruler.
Sheikh Mohammed's ex-wife, Princess Haya bint Hussein, fled the UAE for the UK last year, with their two children allegedly fearing for her life.
In December 2019, a UK family court ruled that the Dubai ruler orchestrated the kidnapping of his daughters Princess Latifa and Princess Shamsa, in addition to subjecting his wife to a campaign of harassment.
Court documents unsealed this year reveal a testimony by Princess Latifa, who said she was subjected to torture that included isolatation and repeated beatings.
According to a March The Guardian report, British police said they were reviewing an investigation into the 2000 disappearance of then 19-year-old runaway Princess Shamsa from the streets of Cambridge.
"[Sheikh Mohammed's] house of cards has collapsed, and people are seeing the real divide," Haigh told 60 Minutes. "You now have multiple ex-wives speaking out publicly, you have daughters all trying to escape, you have serious, serious problems in the family."
More recently, another Emirati princess allegedly attempted to flee the UAE royal family, 60 Minutes Australia reported on 17 May, reportedly inspired by the attempted getaway of her cousin, Princess Latifa bint Mohammed Al-Makhtoum, one of the daughters of Dubai's ruler.
Read also: Indepth: Detained in Dubai: UAE no longer safe for tourists
In an undated video plea, shared by 60 Minutes, the young woman identified herself as Princess Maitha Al-Maktoum - not the Dubai ruler's daughter with the same name, but a member of the extended royal family.
Wearing a blue Calvin Klein t-shirt and displaying her identity card, the young woman spoke against loud music, which she said was "background noise", because she did not want to risk anyone hearing her speak.
"I am thinking of leaving tonight," she said in a shaky voice. "Why? I just can't stand it. I just cannot stand it."
"I'm sick of my parents, I feel like..." she trailed off, before getting visibly emotional.
60 Minutes said the footage was sent to lawyer and human rights activist David Haigh, who attributed the young woman's plea to the UAE's "archaic system of male guardianship".
"It's the same story," Haigh told 60 Minutes. "It was the essentially male guardianship system where she wasn't allowed to live the life that she sees all the western women that are expats in Dubai are living."
"It must be very [...] difficult for them, and understandably, many of them want to leave," he added.
Haigh said Maitha's escape attempt failed and he lost contact with her late last year, with her whereabouts remaining unknown.
Her attempted getaway was inspired by her cousin Latifa, Haigh added.