Who is the Emir of Dubai

Regime: The Emir of Dubai rules so brutally in the paradise of German influencers

Luxurious villas, exclusive clubs, fireworks in front of skyscrapers - and only this light! German influencers like Sarah Harrison, Sami Slimani or Fiona Erdmann celebrate Dubai like paradise on earth - and millions of followers watch their videos. But there is also another video. One that is as different as possible from the sunny party posts of the Instagrammers.

It is the cry for help from Princess Latifa, daughter of the billionaire Dubai Emir Mohammed bin Raschid al-Maktum. And it shows how bizarre reality in the desert state differs from the image that compliant German C celebrities like Marcus von Anhalt send out into the world.

In the secretly recorded videos of the princess, the past week of the BBC leaked, she locked herself in the toilet of a villa. Princess Latifa said she was being held against her will, guarded by the police around the clock and feared for her life. Her father: Ruler of Dubai and Vice President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Daughters and wife of the Emir of Dubai have fled

Almost exactly three years ago she had tried in vain to flee Dubai. Since then there has been no sign of life from her - until now. Critics accuse the Sheikh of a pathological addiction to control, from which family members also suffer and which shows the dark face of the glittering city of Dubai.

Five policemen in front of the house and two policewomen in the villa never let her out of her sight, says the 35-year-old. "I am a hostage and this villa has been converted into a prison." All windows are locked, they are not allowed to go outside. "I don't know if I will survive this." The police had told her that she would stay locked up her entire life and never see the sun again.

It is not known when the video messages were recorded. According to the support group "Free Latifa", friends' contact with the princess was suddenly broken at the end of 2020. Out of concern for their safety, it has now been decided to publish the videos. Accordingly, the princess has been held for years in the house near the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.

Sarah Harrison now lives in a luxury villa in Dubai

From the roof terrace of the villa, where influencer Sarah Harrison has lived with her husband Dominic and now two children since the end of last year, you can see the center of Dubai with its world-famous skyscrapers. In a YouTube video from the end of January, the native of Günzburg wallows in the desert sand with her husband and children, proudly showing the pool and roof terrace of the luxury villa.

The satirist Jan Böhmermann and his team from ZDF Magazin Royale have collected even more videos, including those of Youtubers Simon Desue. He emigrated because he was deprived of the freedom in Germany to make his videos the way he wanted. To be precise, Desue was on trial in Hamburg because he had faked a crime with counterfeit money in one of his videos. He now lives in the Emirates, which are in the list of "Reporters Without Borders" at number 131 out of 160 when it comes to dealing with freedom of the press. According to the reporter organization, since 1980 they have allowed “the censorship of local and foreign media in the case of criticism of domestic politics, the economy, ruling families or religion”.

And while the German influencers are cheering the heavenly life in Dubai and broadcasting it to the world via smartphone, the princess's cell phone had to be smuggled into the villa, according to the information. Latifa's attorney, David Haigh, appealed to the international community to stop remaining silent in the face of the princess' “torture”. The UN Human Rights Commission wants to contact the UAE about the case.

Latifa's older sister Shamsa wanted to leave the family 21 years ago, but was kidnapped and brought back to Dubai. She has not been seen since. Two years later, Latifa also decided to flee, but was quickly caught again. At the end of February 2018 she started a new attempt. She managed to flee across the sea towards India on a yacht, but the boat was stopped in international waters by units from the UAE and India. The princess said she was handcuffed, drugged and brought back to Dubai.

Influencers do not post critically about the country and politics

According to the British judiciary, Sheikh Mohammed has 25 children from several wives. The 71-year-old ruler, a successful breeder of racehorses with a fortune of up to twelve billion euros and himself an Instagram user with more than five million followers, hit the headlines two years ago because his ex-wife Haya and his two youngest Children fled to London. The Sheikh turned to a British court to have the children returned to Dubai. The responsible judge ruled against him last year and also accused him of kidnapping and imprisoning his daughters Schamsa and Latifa.

Sheikh Mohammed's critics see the princesses' imprisonment as an example of the grievances hidden behind the beautiful appearance of Dubai. Latifa's lawyer Haigh pointed out that the UAE was trying to create a modern state image with its Mars mission and a new immigration law. But Latifa's fate shows that Dubai is “simply not to be trusted”. But why do the immigrants from Germany who earn money with online profiles still report with unreserved enthusiasm? Because they have to acquire the so-called influencer license from the National Media Council - and this obliges them to avoid content about religion and politics. That is why what Kenneth Roth, head of the human rights organization Human Rights Watch, says about Dubai as a whole applies to their profiles: The public should not be deceived by the emirate's image as a cosmopolitan playground for vacationers and investors.

You can also read about this:

We want to know what you think: The Augsburger Allgemeine therefore works with the opinion research institute Civey. Read here what the representative surveys are all about and why you should register.