A Dubai princess who has been the subject of concern from a United Nations panel after being seized trying to flee the sheikhdom in 2018 has appeared in a social media post that described her as being in Spain on a “European holiday”.
An image published on an Instagram account belonging to former Royal Navy member Sioned Taylor appears to shows Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum at Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas airport.
Taylor’s caption, punctuated by a smiley face emoji, reads: “Great European holiday with Latifa. We’re having fun exploring!” Comments by Taylor acknowledged the location of the image, which match other images of the airport.
Asked about Sheikha Latifa, Taylor wrote in another comment “she is great” with a thumbs up emoji. It is the first time that Latifa appears to have been seen outside Dubai since she was captured by commandos on a yacht in March 2018.
Taylor, the United Arab Emirates’ embassies in London and Madrid, as well as the government’s Dubai Media Office, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday from the Associated Press.
Taylor originally acted as a chaperone for Latifa, according to a source who knows her, but was close to the princess before her flight in 2018. Late last month, she posted images of Sheikha Latifa in May showing her at two local Dubai malls as well.
The photos’ captions come after UN experts and human rights activists had called on Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, to provide information on his daughter, who has accused him of years of abuse.
The sheikh has repeatedly denied all allegations of mistreating Latifa, although a UK family court found, in a judgment published in March 2020, that she was abducted in March 2018 after trying to flee Dubai on a yacht and, until the release of the picture, had been detained in the city in conditions “akin to a prison”.
In recent weeks, Latifa appears to be enjoying an increasing degree of freedom, with the images appearing to show her travelling outside the UAE for the first time.
A lawyer for the group, which has campaigned for her freedom, welcomed the development.
“We are pleased to see Latifa seemingly having a passport, travelling and enjoying an increasing degree of freedom; these are very positive steps forward,” David Haigh, co-founder of the Free Latifa campaign. “I can also confirm that several of the campaign team have been contacted directly by Latifa.”
Sheikha Latifa, 35, had tried to flee the country in secret in early 2018 only to be detained by commandos in a boat off India, in a dramatic raid orchestrated by the Indian military off the coast of Goa, at the request of Sheikh Mohammed.
Videos released in February by the BBC had Sheikha Latifa describing herself as being in a villa that “has been converted into a jail”.
The dramatic would-be sea escape and its aftermath intruded into the carefully controlled image maintained by the family of Sheikh Mohammed, who is believed to have several dozen children from multiple wives. Some of his sons and daughters figure prominently in local media and online, but others are rarely seen.
Sheikh Mohammed also serves as the vice-president and prime minister of the hereditarily ruled United Arab Emirates, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian peninsula.