Wife of Dubai ruler apologises for Robinson controversy

Princess Haya bint Hussein invited former president to Dubai to visit Sheikha Latifa

A photograph of Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum (left) with former Irish president Mary Robinson in Dubai.

A photograph of Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum (left) with former Irish president Mary Robinson in Dubai.

 

A wife of Dubai’s ruler has defended former Irish president Mary Robinson’s visit to an Emirati princess who went missing earlier this year and has apologised for the controversy which followed the invitation.

Mrs Robinson faced intense criticism from rights campaigners for a visit to Dubai where she was photographed with Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum (33) who was seized from a yacht off the coast of India in March as she attempted to flee Dubai.

Latifa, a daughter of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum had not been heard from since she returned to Dubai.

In a video that she instructed friends to release in case an attempt to escape Dubai went wrong, Latifa said she had spent seven years trying to flee a gilded prison and feared torture if captured.

Photographs of Mrs Robinson meeting Latifa were released by her family on Christmas Eve to rebut what they described as “false allegations” that she had been taken home against her will.

Jordan's Princess Haya bint al-Hussein is the wife of Princess Sheikha Latifa's father, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Photograph: Getty
Jordan's Princess Haya bint al-Hussein is the wife of Princess Sheikha Latifa's father, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Photograph: Getty

Mrs Robinson’s critics alleged she was “used as a willing pawn in the PR battle between the UAE ruling family and the rest of the world”.

Speaking to the Marian Finucane Show on RTÉ Radio 1 on Saturday, Princess Haya bint Hussein, a wife of Dubai’s ruler who asked Mrs Robinson to visit the family, insisted the affair was “deeply private” and a “family matter”.

‘Protection’

“I don’t want to go any more deeply into it for the protection of Latifa herself, and to ensure that she is not used by anyone else,” she said. “She is a vulnerable young woman and that’s what’s important to me.

“What’s important to us as a family is to ensure that she’s alright and that she’s receiving the love and protection of all of us.”

Haya said she asked Mrs Robinson to visit for “her counsel” and because she believed she would receive honest advice.

It’s unimaginable that this thing has gone so far from the truth. It’s been unbelievable and devastating

“I asked Mary to come to Dubai because it mattered deeply to me. I wanted to get the right advice from Mary on how to move forward. I wanted her to give me that counsel.

“There was no official party. There was no commission. There were no terms of reference. I made the call on a Tuesday and told her the difficulties that I saw and the heartbreak that I see around me, and asked her to come and give me advice.

“That’s the thing I really value from a person with her integrity and her track record. She’s not someone who’s going to mince words. She’s her own woman. She always has been. That’s what matters.

“Mary dropped everything. I called her on Tuesday and she came to me by Saturday. It was unbelievable. They don’t make people like that anymore and I’m deeply grateful.

‘Sorry’

“I’m really, really very sorry that my actions have led to the criticism of a person that I so deeply respect and admire. Mary has a legacy that speaks for itself. Nothing I can say or anyone else can say can take that away from her. Her track record is unblemished.”

Haya described the international outcry over the matter as “devastating” and said demands to produce evidence of Latifa’s welfare as “absurd”.

“The reason that this correspondence has had such a shattering effect on me is simply the fact that we have been asked for proof of life,” she said. “Being asked to prove that someone we love is simply alive is absurd.

“We’ve done our utmost to help, protect and support her through this period, and we continue to do so. It’s unimaginable that this thing has gone so far from the truth. It’s been unbelievable and devastating.”

Haya said she would not “allow a vulnerable woman to continue to be used and exploited by people with their own agendas”. However, she declined to expand on what agendas she was referring to. “I’m not going to go into any of those details,” she said.

“If I thought for a single second that any shred of this was true I wouldn’t put up with it or stand for it.”

Following her visit Mrs Robinson described Latifa as a “troubled” and “vulnerable” young woman who has a “serious medical situation” and was “in the loving care of her family”.

In a statement last Friday Mrs Robinson said she was “dismayed at some of the media comments on my visit and I would like to say I undertook the visit and made an assessment, not a judgement, based on personal witness, in good faith and to the best of my ability.”

She had visited Dubai “to meet the princess at the request of Princess Haya bint Hussein, one of the wives of the Sheikh.

“ I have known and worked with Princess Haya for many years in her capacity as a member of the UN Global Humanitarian Forum and as a UN Messenger of Peace. I was aware of the international concern over Sheikha Latifa and that she had not been seen for many months so when Princess Haya asked me to go to Dubai to meet with both of them I agreed, without hesitation.”