On the night of March 4, 2018, an unprecedented international incident took place in which significant Indian and UAE military forces converged to carry out an unprovoked attack on a small, American yacht off the coast of Goa, India.
These forces included at least two state-of-the-art ships from the Indian Coast Guard; a UAE Navy frigate; hundreds of men, including an elite commando unit and a detachment of the UAE state security forces; helicopters; and surveillance planes. The mission was to illegally kidnap and capture one young woman.
On that night, Indian commandos boarded the U.S.-flagged Nostromo, assaulted the crew, and dragged Princess Latifa of away, illegally ignoring her desperate pleas for asylum. They did this under the direction of Latifa’s father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the unelected ruler of Dubai. That night, Latifa’s desire for freedom was brutally, violently crushed in a state-sponsored kidnapping.
“They told me, ‘Your father told us to beat you until we kill you. That’s his orders. Your father’s orders. Your father, the ruler of Dubai, that’s what he said.’” ~ Princess Latifa Al Maktoum
Latifa had planned her bid for freedom for many years. As part of her plan, she made video recordings to be shared with the world in case her plan failed. These included a 40-minute video chronicling her harrowing experiences and her dreams of a brighter future. In this video she delivered a scathing denouncement of the hypocrisy of her father, her extended family and her society.
For nine months the UAE were silent regarding Latifa’s fate of Latifa. It was only after the BBC broadcast the hour-long documentary Escape From Dubai: The Mystery Of The Missing Princess that the UAE were forced to reveal Latifa’s status. Latifa’s stepmother, Princess Haya, who arranged for her friend, Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to visit Latifa in Dubai. Robinson later stated that Latifa regretted trying to escape and was back “in the loving care of her family.”
Princess Haya herself eventually fled Dubai, and in February 2021 Robinson entirely retracted her statement and said she had been misled.
Today, Latifa is still being held in Dubai against her will by Sheikh Mohammed.