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Published 2021-12-21
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Missing Qatari Womens Rights Activist Detained By Government? Followers Fear She Is Dead.

While the eyes of the world are turned to Qatar as preparations for the 2022 World Cup are underway, there has been some worrying information about a missing 23-year-old woman that has come to light. Noof al-Maadeed is a women’s rights activist who previously fled her country though she since has returned and disappeared and her followers are worried that something terrible might have happened to her. Who exactly is the woman in question? Why do her followers think something bad happened? Why did she flee Qatar in the first place? Read on to find out the story that has had many wondering as to what is going on.

Who is Noof?

Noof al-Maadeed is a 23-year-old women’s rights campaigner. Towards the end of 2019, she fled her native Qatar and sought asylum in the UK, on the grounds that she had been abused by her family, alleging that they tried to kill her on three separate occasions and revealing that the authorities had failed to provide her with protection. Once she arrived in the UK the woman submitted an application for political asylum which she later withdrew. Her case that highlights discrimination facing women in the Gulf state had become viral once she had started documenting her journey to Britain via Ukraine. But how bad were things? Read on to find out.

Her Escape

Earlier in March, the woman appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour where she talked more about her claims of abuse that wasn’t just physical but also emotional. She talked about how her freedom of movement was restricted and in order to escape Qatar she stole her dad’s phone to request an exit permit as the country’s guardianship laws prevent unmarried women under 25 from traveling alone without the permission of a male guardian.

Women’s Rights In Qatar

Many of Noof’s activist work focused the attention on Qatar’s male guardianship system in which women are dependent on men for permission to marry, travel, pursue higher education, work, and even access reproductive healthcare. According to a report from the Guardian, researchers into women’s rights in the country have looked at 27 laws covering work, accommodation, and status and have found that women must actually get permission from male guardians to exercise many basic rights. Those guardians can be fathers, brothers, uncles, and husbands. According to the report, women cannot be primary carers of their children, even if they are divorced, or the children’s father has died. If that child has no male relative to act as guardian the government takes on the role. Women interviewed for the report had talked about how their guardians had denied them permission to drive, travel, study, work, or even marry someone of their own choosing. But despite leaving for the UK why are Noof’s followers concerned for her? Read on to find out.

Noof Returns To Qatar

Given the reason and the circumstances under which Noof had fled Qatar, many were shocked when she revealed that she was returning back home. In a video which al-Maadeed shared to her social media, the woman had said that in the UK she had a normal life until a day that she felt that she did not belong there, adding that she wanted to live in her home countries but adding that there were many difficulties, fears, and danger if she wanted to go back. However, after assurances over her safety from the government, she decided to return back home, posting to her social media, “I’m still the same Noof who ran away defending women’s rights”. Though there was a condition. Allegedly the woman was told that as part of her return which would see her stay in a hotel under the watch of security officials, she would have to drop her application for political asylum in the UK, which she did.

Noof’s Disappearance

However, since her arrival in the capital of Qatar, Doha, Noof’s friends and followers had become worried after alleging that they had not heard from her, despite the fact that sources have told them that she is hiding for her own safety. The 23-year-old had vanished on October 13th after speaking out about being in danger and receiving death threats from abusive relatives. Rothna Begum, senior women's rights researcher at Human Rights Watch had revealed that al-Maadeed is not someone who would switch off without telling a single person about how she was doing. Fellow campaigners believe that she is being held by the Qatari government and have started a #whereisNoof hashtag, demanding authorities find her. Khalid Ibrahim, the head of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights had spoken to the Guardian and said, “She said that if she is not posting on social media then it means she is dead.” Though what other theories are there surrounding her disappearance? Read on.

Her Father Is Involved?

Some had suspected that the woman’s father might have been involved in that. This is because, in one of her social media posts, Al-Maadeed mentioned the fact that her father, who allegedly had been one of the people abusing her and the main reason she ran away, had entered the lobby of the hotel in which she was staying. In that same post, she also wrote, “Sheikh Tamim is the only one who can stop the danger to my life with his own hands.” But as many noted, it seems that even the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad had not been able to provide the necessary protection for a citizen who returned back to her home country while being promised protection.

She’s With Her Family?

The last three tweets that she posted on October 13th, read ‘i’m ok’, ‘hi still not safe’, and ‘a bit more ok’. Some had theorized that you activist might have been handed back to her family by the security which was supposed to protect her, either voluntarily or as a result of a bribe, though of course that are just speculations. A Qatari official, who does not want to be identified, told The Sun Online that Noof is safe and well however her followers fail to believe that.

Noof Is Dead?

One of the biggest fears that her friends and followers have is that Noof is dead. With the rumors and theories that she has been given back to her family, also had some reports that they had killed her. However, once again there has been no proof but given Noof’s own statement where she claimed that if she didn’t update anyone then assume that she was dead, many were quick to assume the worst. Ibrahim said that this theory is based on what she told them to add, quickly adding that the Qatari government can easily prove to the international community that she is alive but because they have no proof, that is their concern. Commenting on this matter, Begum from Human Rights Watch said, ‘It’s a year until the World Cup and we have a woman in Qatar who has gone missing, and there remain big questions about whether she’s safe. We believe she is under some form of detention.’

Mental Hospital?

However, most recently, an alleged relative of al-Maadeed had reached out to the times, claiming that the 23-year-old is alive but is being kept in a mental hospital while heavily sedated and faces ‘imminent danger’. The relative claimed that they have been in touch with someone inside the hospital for updates and from their updates, the situation sounds horrific and they want her back safe immediately. Many human rights organizations, as well as Noof’s followers, had repeatedly called on the country’s authorities to ensure that al-Maadeed is not in any form of detention, as well as to allow her access to the outside world, including her phone so that she can make her own decisions and live an independent life. Though despite these claims, no proof of where the activist has actually been given.

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