«The Runaway Princesses,» a New York podcast, exposes the plight of Dubai’s royal women

The leader of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is one of the richest men in the world and is celebrated for modernizing the UAE. He publicly advocates for gender equality and has pledged to «remove all barriers that women face». But for his daughter Latifah, Dubai was a «prison», a lavish cage where she and other royal women were subjected to severe punishment for disobedience.

Within a few years, Latifa devised a secret plan to escape the country by sea, trained in extreme sports and smuggled money to co-conspirators. But in February 2018, when Latifa tried to escape, commandos attacked the yacht she had chartered to take her to international waters and took Latifa away. The princess called her father a «master criminal» responsible for torturing women who tried to escape his control. (Sheikh Mohammed has denied any wrongdoing.)

In «The Runaway Princesses,» a four-part narrative audio series, A New Yorker writer Heidi Blake tells the story of Latifah and other royal women who defy one of the most powerful men in the world. Why did these women, born into incredible luxury, risk their lives to escape? And what happened to them since then? Based on thousands of pages of secret correspondence and never-before-heard recordings, «The Runaway Princesses» —New Yorker’s the first narrative audio version – takes listeners from the palaces of Dubai to the streets of London in a story of surprising courage and cruelty.

«The Runaway Princesses» draws on Blake’s previous investigative work for The New Yorker, transforming extensive press releases into a rich audio presentation. Blake published an in-depth examination of the princess story in May 2023 and last month updated readers on what is known about Latifah’s condition. Blake also wrote about the four royal sisters reportedly imprisoned by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah. A new audio series he is producing The New Yorker and Condé Nast, offers listeners a stunning and absorbing story with chilling revelations about the collusion of Western governments to brutalize Sheikh Mohammed.

«The Runaway Princesses» is hosted by Madeleine Baran, lead reporter for the award-winning investigative journalism podcast In the Dark, and produced by Catherine Winter. Joined by Baran, Winter and the In the Dark team The New Yorker in 2023, when the program was acquired by Condé Nast. In the Dark previously released two highly valued seasons. A third season, currently in production, is expected later this year. Led by Baran and Samara Freemark, executive producers, In the Dark won two Peabody Awards and was the first podcast of 2019 to win a George Polk Award.

Blake who joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 2022, previously writing for Sunday Times of London and BuzzFeed News, where she was global investigations editor. Her work has won more than twenty national and international media awards, and she was a Pulitzer finalist in 2018. She is the author of “From Russia with Blood: The Kremlin’s Ruthless Assassination Program and Vladimir Putin’s Secret War in the West” and co-author of the book “The Ugly Game: FIFA Corruption and Qatar’s Plan to Buy the World Cup.”

Subscribers to The New Yorker get ad-free early access to all four episodes of the series. Simply download the New Yorker app for iOS or Android, sign in to your account and select the Audio tab to listen from start to finish. Subscribers can also find all episodes, along with Blake’s previous coverage, at online hub.

If you are not yet a subscriber, apply today for a dollar a week. You can also listen as the episodes drop each week wherever you get your podcasts.


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