Latifa's final voice recordings & transcription
Voice recording sent to Radha Stirling the day before Princess Latifa was taken
From onboard Nostromo, after Latifa’s daring escape from Dubai, she contacted Detained in Dubai CEO Radha Stirling and the two exchanged messages up until her capture. The messages showcase how determined the princess was to secure her freedom.
Sheikha Latifa Al Maktoum had planned her second escape for seven years, enlisting the assistance of former French secret service agent Hervé Jaubert. Before her escape, she recorded a video testimony to be published if she was captured or killed. Lesser known though, is that she sent Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, WhatsApp voice messages after her escape from onboard Nostromo on the high seas. Although circulated with journalists immediately, Latifa’s video testimony was the central focus.
Stirling was the only person the princess trusted to reach out to for support, authorising her to publicise her story in the international media, and asking for her help in arranging asylum or assisting in the event she was arrested and subject of extradition proceedings.
In the recording Latifa is lucid, and relates matter-of-factly what she and her sister Shamsa had suffered at the hands of their father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Ruler of Dubai. “I had already been speaking to Latifa for a few days,” Stirling recalls, “When she entrusted me to act on her behalf and to take her story to the press, I asked her to record a brief summary about herself which I could present to selected journalists because I anticipated their reluctance to believe the story. At the time of the recording, Nostromo was on its approach to India, and Latifa was looking forward to moving on from there to the US where she would seek asylum.
“She was nervous but hopeful, and always articulate, intelligent and clearly feeling empowered by having finally put her plan into action. She was a young woman who knew what she was doing, knew what she wanted, and was pursuing it with tremendous courage. She was worried for the safety of everyone involved in her escape, and was doing her best to ensure success. Within 24 hours, I received Latifa’s panicked call from Nostromo as the boat was being raided by Indian and UAE forces.”
Latifa states on the recording that the date was March 3rd, one day before a joint military operation by UAE special forces and the Indian Coast Guard illegally attacked Nostromo in international waters and abducted all onboard.
In a WhatsApp message the day before the raid, Latifa said, “I don't think my father's men have found me yet but we're not out of the woods at all. Everyday it's survival and making life or death decisions at this point...They can (kill me). It would look worse for them if I just disappeared but they can kill me easily."
“I look at those last exchanges between me and Latifa and remember those haunting hours waiting to hear back from her, and it finally sinking in that she had been taken,” Stirling says.
Latifa’s independent attempts to get her story published were predictably met with skepticism by journalists, “Even when I began contacting reporters, it was a struggle to get them to print the story. Remember, this was before Rahaf Mohammed, before Hind Al Balooki, and before Princess Haya; no one wanted to publish a story about the daughter of Dubai’s powerful Ruler running away for her life in March 2018.” Stirling explains, “But I knew Latifa’s life was on the line, as well as Herve’s and everyone else onboard Nostromo. Thankfully, Latifa had given me all the information I needed to confirm her identity and the facts of her story, and within days it ran in the international press.”
Several months after her capture, Latifa appeared in a staged photo op with former Irish President Mary Robinson and Princess Haya, looking listless and sedated. The official response of the UAE to Detained in Dubai’s UN petition for an inquiry into Latifa’s capture was a PR stunt attempting to display that she is in the loving embrace of her family, and that the whole episode is a private matter. Latifa’s audio message to Stirling, and her pre-escape video suggest otherwise. “Obviously, I am deeply concerned about Latifa’s welfare. What she alleged regarding the abuse of her sister and of herself at the hands of Sheikh Mohammed, abuse which prompted her to risk her life to escape, certainly suggests that Latifa is being held against her will, and potentially enduring serious violations of her human rights and her mental and physical wellbeing. This is decidedly not a private matter, it is a matter of law,” Stirling explains.
“Princess Haya herself has fled her marriage to Sheikh Mohammed, reportedly prompted by her concern for her children’s safety after learning the details of Latifa’s experience. An official delegation from the UN must be allowed to meet Latifa, and to talk with her unaccompanied by her father’s security staff or other officials, to genuinely determine her safety.”
Stirling has testified before the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances in Geneva, and submitted written testimony detailing all of her exchanges with Latifa, and the inquiry is ongoing. Aside from the scripted meeting with Mary Robinson last December, which was little more than an attempt to circumvent UN protocols following a damning and award winning BBC documentary on Latifa, the UAE has refused to fully comply with the inquiry.
“There has been no sign of Latifa for almost a year,” Stirling cautions, “At the very minimum, the international community must be given proof of life. Based on Latifa’s own statements, we have every reason to fear for her safety, and diversionary assurances from the Ruler’s Court are wholly insufficient.
“While Sheikh Mohammed is currently going through custody hearings over his children with Princess Haya in an English court, he would be well-advised to cooperate with the United Nations, and establish that Latifa is safe and well. As long as her fate remains in question, it is highly unlikely that any UK court would grant child custody to an alleged abusive father.”
Transcription of Latifa's voice recordings
03 march 2018. 09:38 CET. Recording 1
Hello, my name is Latifa Mohammed Bin Rashid (*) Al Maktoum. My birthday is December 5, 1985.
My sister is Shamsa Al Maktoum. In 2000 she escaped on holiday in the UK. She was 18 and I was 14. And after 2 months on the run she was captured and brought back to Dubai, and she spent a total of 8 years in prison.
And 2 years after that, in 2002 in June I ran away to get her help. And they caught me at the Omani border. I was 16 at the time and they, they took me, my father’s men took me, and his orders was: “beat her until (we), you kill her.” And I was imprisoned and tortured repeatedly by his men.
After 1 year and 1 month I was allowed to leave and I went to the house, my (my) mom’s house, for a week.
But after that week, since I didn’t see Shamsa for, still, I (I) still didn’t have any communication with her and I didn’t see her. I kind of… fought with everybody and I started screaming that: I wanted to see her, I wanted to see her. To the point where they had to tranquilise me.
They bought a doctor, to tranquilise me. And then, put me in the hospital. I was tranquilised again since it didn’t work so good the first time. And I spent 1 week in the hospital. I lost my voice from all the screaming. And I lost a few days from all the (the) medicines (the the) (what) the tranquilise... thing they gave me.
So after 2 weeks out, they put me back in prison again and I spent 3 years and 4 months total inside. And as soon as I left, (I) (as) as soon as I got out of prison, I started to try to find people who can get me out. And in (two thousand...) I left prison in October 2005. And in 2009 I had the opportunity to leave, but in 2008 Shamsa was allowed visitors since she stopped eating, and, you know they, they, it was like scandalous for them if she died from starvation. They didn’t want that you know?
So they allowed people to visit her. So after 8 years inside she was kind of allowed visitors. Even though she wasn’t really leaving the facility.
So in 2009 I had the opportunity to leave. But I didn’t leave because I didn’t want to leave her. And, basically for 9 years I’ve been waiting for her situation to improve so I can escape with her. But it hasn’t improved. And last summer, my family they found her with some mobile phones and they were afraid that she would try to contact the media again, like she did in 2001. So they removed everything from her.
Since she got out of prison she’s been heavily medicated. And I feel like it’s to control her, you know? They say, “oh she has psychiatric problems” or whatever. She doesn’t have any problems. They just use these medications to control her.
And, yeah so this last summer they took everything away from her. She has no freedom and then she has people, like, minding her, you know? Nurses and, (and) psychiatrists full time. And then people just writing, around her writing down: What time does she wake up? What time does she sleep? What does she eat? What does she say? And they write down details of the conversations she says.
She’s heavily monitored. So after I saw that, I realised that, you know, I’m just wasting my time waiting and there is no way I can wait and wait and wait. So I decided that I’m just going to leave. And that’s the best thing to do.
So now I’ve, I’m, I left. I’m out of the UAE but I’m not out of danger at all. I’m still far from being safe.
So I think, some kind of publication would be good, although a lot of people in Dubai already know that I left. A lot of my friends know. A lot of, you know, its, I mean it’s a small community, people talk. So I think, yeah, to have something published would be good. I’ve already contacted some major newspapers through friends of friends. Like, (they) they know people who work for them, so a story should be coming out soon anyway.
I don’t know what else to say really, like… I just hope it all goes ok because there is so many people involved, who are helping me to get out. And I hope everybody just (just) ends up ok.
03 march 2018. 09:38 CET. Recording 2
Sorry the date is the 3rd of March 2018
03 march 2018. 09:41 CET. Recording 3
I have to say also, when Shamsa was captured, she was captured illegally.
Basically a bunch of Emirati men, like CID guys working for my father, drove up to her in the street and caught her. Pushed her into the car, kicking and (scream) screaming. They took her to a helicopter, which took her to a private jet, and then they flew her to Dubai.
So everything was done very illegally there. And they tracked her because she kept communicating with one of her friends in Dubai called Layla Harab. And my father went Layla’s house himself and asked her if he can tap her phone. And he did.
And Layla told Shamsa: “My phone is tapped. And (they’re) they’re chasing you. They’re (they’re) tracking you, so please don’t call me.”
But Shamsa kept calling her. And that’s how they found her.