زوجة سابقة لحاكم دبي تشكو الحرمان من رؤية ابنتها 40 عاماً
Since the 1970s, a former wife of Dubai ruler Prince Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Lebanese born Randa Al Banna, has been forbidden from seeing her daughter, now in her forties and married to Emirati Deputy Prime Minister Skeikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Randa revealed this during an interview with British newspaper "The Sunday Times" on December 22, during which interview she revealed, for the first time, the "unjust punishment" that Sheikh Mohammed had meted out after her decision to separate from him.
In the article titled ‘Our baby is now in her forties. The emir still won’t let me near’ Randa, 64, recounted how she met the prince at a party in the Lebanese capital, Beirut in 1972, when she was only 16 years old. They later married and she moved in with him to start an ‘Exceptional life by all standards’.
"An Extraordinary Life" then Bankruptcy and Deprivation
Randa said that her life with Sheikh Mohammed (70 years old) was filled "with private planes, champagne, and parties at London’s Tramp Nightclub,"but ended in divorce and returning bankrupt to Beirut”.
Randa spoke of "being forcibly separated from her little girl, , she was later kidnapped and forced to marry a leader of an armed militia fighting in the Lebanese Civil War."
She also recounted at length her efforts "for decades" to communicate with her daughter, Manal Bint Mohammed bin Rashid.
During the interview, Randa described Sheikh Muhammad as “Not an easy man. He is not. He is very stubborn,” noting that she “made my decision, and I cannot see Manal now ... I do not know what she looks like, I am not allowed to see her, because I am the one who chose to leave, so this is my punishment. Not to see her".
A surreal account of Randa Banna and Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed stormy marriage and divorce; Forty years later, Randa still cannot see the daughter they had together, she says she is now banned from visiting Dubai.
Before she was 18, Randa Banna married Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed. Within a few years, she asked for a divorce, he kept her from seeing her daughter for over 40 years. Randa was later kidnapped, forced to marry, beaten up, and banned from visiting Dubai.
Lovers’ Life Despite the Differences
According to Randa's account in the "Sunday Times", she lived with the prince at the start of their marriage in London for some time before moving to Dubai, noting that she did not like the lack of amenities and comforts nor the Bedouin culture that her husband was so attached to.
Even the poems he wrote to her, she said she did not understand any of them.
While the prince was "disturbed by her boldness in speaking," she said that her husband's family "insisted on changing her name, which they considered very European, to Haifa."
But she described their relationship until she gave birth to their daughter, "as that of two lovers," she was 18 years old at the time. But their relationship collapsed after she learned, during a short visit to her family in Beirut, shortly after Manal's birth, of something that the prince had done during her pregnancy.
Although he denied doing so, she insisted on getting a divorce and returned to Beirut after being forbidden to take her five-month-old daughter with her.
And she explained at the time: "I lost everything; I lost my family, I lost it, I lost my home, I lost my daughter, I lost my dignity and my pride. I paid the price of love."
Randa met with disaster again when she was kidnapped at a checkpoint in Beirut during the civil war and was forced by her kidnapper, a militia leader, to marry. She described her life with him as "stormy interspersed with a lot of violence, I gave birth to two children from him."
After the end of the civil war, Randa saved herself by telling the authorities about her husband’s whereabouts so they could arrest him and travelled with her two children to Italy, where she still lives.
Sheikh Mohammed's role in Randa's life did not end with the divorce, as he helped her pay the lawyer’s fees for her divorce from the militiaman.
But when she broke free and repeated her attempts to see Manal, pleading with Sheikh Muhammad to give her a chance, he was always promising, and not fulfilling his promises, as she said: "Promises. A life passed, a whole life."
The only picture Randa has of Manal was when she was still crawling, a photo Sheikh Muhammad had given her. But she said that after years, she realized that it was not Manal's picture at all, but rather one of his other daughters.
Randa travelled to Dubai in 2000, calling Sheikh Mohammed asking to see her daughter and he gave her an address and told her to go there in her most beautiful clothes. It turned out that the festivities were for an Emirati air show attended by thousands, and when "I asked him where is she? He replied that she was inside, try to identify her, I want to see a mother’s instinct’.
Randa searched for Manal among hundreds of women in the hall, but she understood that she was not there and left Dubai the next day.
After that, a decree was issued to prevent her from entering the UAE, "because I am a security threat since I am the mother of his daughter."
Randa also said, in the interview, that she had sought to enter the UAE secretly in 2005 as part of a retinue of a Saudi Arabian princess who was attending her daughter's wedding. But she was violently attacked by a baseball bat by someone days before the expected travel date.
As a result of this attack, she had a deep gash requiring 27 stitches and four of her ribs were broken.
When she woke up, she found Sheikh Muhammad beside her expressing sympathy, and showing willingness to pay the costs of her treatment. About this encounter, she said: "I was very afraid. I asked him: What have you done? He replied, Are you crazy? You are from my family. I can never harm you."
Despite all this deprivation, Randa said that being allowed to meet her daughter would make up for everything, “If I were allowed to see my daughter, he would have compensated me for everything. All I want is to hold her in my arms again.”
Princess Haya's Escape
Randa noted that she had kept the secrets of the Al Maktoum family for several decades, hoping that this silence would enable her to see her daughter.
However, despite her declining health and serious anxiety that she or one of her children from her second marriage would be attacked in revenge for revealing her story, the thing she wants the most "is for her daughter to know that her mother loves her and that she did not want to stay away from her all those years."
This revelation comes after the escape of another wife Princess Haya Al Hussein (45 years), his sixth wife, who started legal proceedings in Britain to resolve their dispute over the custody of their two children.
It is not yet clear whether this confession from Randa will aid Princess Haya's legal position or not. But it is very likely to have an effect.