The estranged and youngest wife of the multimillionaire ruler of Dubai has asked a British court for a forced marriage protection order.
Princess Haya is fighting an application from her husband, Sheikh Mohammed, for the “summary return” of their two children to the United Arab Emirates, in a case that has attracted global attention.
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Who is she?
Princess Haya Bint al-Hussein was born in Jordan and is the half-sister of the current Jordanian ruler, King Abdullah II.
She was educated at private schools in Britain, reports the London Evening Standard. She boarded at the all-girls Badminton School in Bristol from the age of 11, before completing five A levels at Bryanston School in Dorset.
The princess then read politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford University, and once told Emirates Women that she had loved being among “open-minded people who were prepared to debate anything”.
The 45-year-old has competed on the world stage as a showjumper. She won bronze at the Pan Arab Games in 1992 and qualified for the Olympics in 2000.
Haya has also gained renown through her charity work as a UN Messenger of Peace and as the chair of the International Humanitarian City, and has focused her efforts on alleviating poverty and hunger.
Speaking to Emirates Women, she said: “The fact that there are so many millions of desperate people in our world that have to face appalling choices for a variety of different reasons is a call to all of us to do our part.”
In 2004, she married Sheikh Mohammed, who reportedly has 23 children by different wives.
Why is she in England?
The princess fled Dubai with her two children at the beginning of the year and eventually arrived in Germany before moving on to the UK in May. She was said to be “in fear for her life”, according to the BBC.
She is believed to be the third female member of her 70-year-old husband’s court to try to run away.
“While the exact details of why she left are not known, some have said it stemmed from the earlier treatment of two of the sheikh’s princess daughters who also tried to flee,” according to The Daily Telegraph.
Haya is now reported to be living in an £85m town house in London’s Kensington Palace Gardens.
She has applied successfully for her children to be wards of court, meaning any decisions about their future cannot be made without the approval of the presiding judge, Sir Andrew McFarlane, who is president of the Family Courts Division.
What happened at the High Court this week?
The Jordanian royal asked the court for wardship of her children and a forced marriage protection order. She has also applied for a non-molestation order, a process normally used to protect someone who claims they have been subjected to domestic violence. The details of the order are not known.
However, Sheikh Mohammed has applied for the return of his children to Dubai, and also applied for the court for reporting restrictions – a request the judge rejected.
Haya attended the first day of the preliminary hearing, marking the first time she has been seen in public since she left her family home in the Gulf.
The Telegraph says it is “set to be one of the most expensive and fiercely contested such cases in UK history”.
The newspaper also points out that the case will be a “diplomatic headache for the UK”, which has strong trading and defence ties with the UAE.
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