“If I don’t make it out, I really hope there’s some positive change that will happen from all of this”
The kidnapping of Latifa Al Maktoum on 4 March 2018 gave rise to aninternational movement to Free Latifa. It is based around securing freedom for Latifa, but it is about more than one person.
Every individual, regardless of background, has the right of self-determination. That right was snatched from Latifa in what was effectively a state-sponsored kidnapping, but there are many women in the UAE who have never tasted that right of self-determination, whose human rights are denied them by the men in their lives, and even sometimes the women. That is why there is masses at stake symbolically in our campaign to give Latifa the right to leave Dubai in safety. Personal rights, in particular women’s rights, will continue to be trampled if Latifa is not freed. The most basic principles of international law will be irreparably damaged if those responsible for the illegal kidnapping of Latifa, and her international crew and best friend are not brought to justice and help accountable.
Despite growing up in a gilded cage, Latifa was treated, like so many other women: as forever a child, a mere possession of men, instead of an adult capable of her own choices. Dubai and its royal palacesand estates may be opulent, but for Latifa (and her sister Shamsa)theywere places where she has been imprisoned, abused and tortured on the orders of her father for trying to escape. A place where she is once again detained against her will, most likely drugged and mistreated, or worse. This place is Dubai in the 21st century, a city selling itself as a modern, tolerant and safe business and tourism destination, yet behind the glittering facade of gleaming skyscrapers and bustling shopping malls, and global brands like Emirates Airlines, lies the sinister threat of human rights violations, corruption and the ever-present eye of a police state whose unelected dictators act with impunity not just in their own state but across the world.
We in the Free Latifa campaign are now demanding what Latifa has fought for, for years: that she be free to travel to a country of her choice, free from torture, abuse and duress, and be able to associate with whichever friends, advisors and lawyers she chooses. Furthermore, we demand this right of all women in the UAE.
Latifa gave us very clear instructions on what to do in the event that her bid for freedom failed. She set out detailed plans for every eventuality. She trusted only a small handful of people with those details and instructions.
Latifa wanted us to continue to fight for her freedom and to tell her story around the world to inspire others. “If I don’t make it out, I really hope there’s some positive change that will happen from all of this,”she said in the remarkable 45+minute video she recorded before her daring escape attempt in February 2018.
She wanted to tell the world about her and her sister’s two- decade-long struggle for freedom from torture, abuse and oppression. As well as fighting her own battle, Latifa is also an advocate for equality. She made it clear that, even if she didn’t succeed, she hoped her story would encourage other women in the Middle East to stand up against male guardianship and patriarchy, and ultimately be free.
We are making sure her story will be heard everywhere.