Born to the daughter of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I, Iskinder Desta spent little of his early life in Ethiopia, thanks to the Italian invasion of 1935. His father, Desta Damtew, was killed fighting the Italians two years later, and Iskinder spent most of his early life in England. He attended Wellington College from 1948-1951, and the following year enrolled in the Britannia Royal Naval College. Upon graduating in 1955, he was commissioned into the Ethiopian Navy as a sub-lieutenant. Three years later, Iskinder was promoted to Commander, and became the deputy commander of the Navy. He seems to have served in a largely ceremonial capacity, representing Ethiopia at the wedding of Belgian King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola Iskinder in 1960, but sources differ on how close Iskinder was with his grandfather, and how much the Emperor trusted him. Iskinder married Princess Sofia Amanuel, and they had a daughter, Naomi Iskinder, born in 1969. By 1974, Iskinder had risen to Rear Admiral, and was the commander in chief of the Ethiopian Navy. He was forced to flee the main naval base at Massawa during a mutiny in February, 1974, but returned the following month. Iskinder's trouble was just beginning, however, and he was arrested during the coup d'etat against his grandfather that September. He was held in Kerchele Prison until 23 November, 1974, when he was executed along with fifty-nine other former government officials.