Women's rights activist is 'held against her will' in Qatar hospital

Women's rights activist is 'held against her will' in Qatar hospital

12/18/2021

Missing women’s rights activist Noof, 23, is ‘being held against her will’ in a psychiatric hospital in Qatar

  • Noof al-Maadeed, 23, was last heard of on October 13 when she spoke of receiving threats
  • Since then fears have grown for her safety, with some reports last week suggesting she had been murdered
  • Relative now says Noof, who sought asylum in Britain after years of domestic abuse, is alive but being kept heavily sedated and faces ‘imminent danger’

A women’s rights activist who mysteriously vanished after returning to Qatar from Britain is reportedly being held against her will in a psychiatric hospital.

Noof al-Maadeed, 23, was last heard of on October 13 when she spoke of receiving threats.

Since then fears have grown for her safety, with some reports last week suggesting she had been murdered.

Now a relative has come forward to say that Noof – who sought asylum in Britain after years of domestic abuse – is alive but is being kept heavily sedated and faces ‘imminent danger’.

Women’s rights activist Noof al-Maadeed (above), who mysteriously vanished after returning to Qatar from Britain, is reportedly being held against her will in a psychiatric hospital. The 23-year-old was last heard of on October 13 when she spoke of receiving threats

‘We have been speaking to someone inside the hospital for updates – the situation sounds horrific and we want to have her back safe immediately,’ the relative told The Times.

Human rights campaigners are demanding that the Qatari authorities prove she is alive.

In her last social media post before she disappeared, Noof said: ‘If you do not see any posts from me in the coming days, that means I have been handed over to my family against my will.’

Earlier, she said three attempts had been made to kill her, adding that the authoritarian state’s ruler was the ‘only one who can stop the danger to my life’.

Noof fled to the UK in 2019 but returned home in October after the Qatar authorities apparently gave assurances she would be safe.

Her case – which highlights discrimination facing women in the Gulf state – became a cause celebre two years ago when a video documenting her journey to Britain went viral. 

It focused attention on Qatar’s male guardianship system in which women are dependent on men for permission to marry, travel, pursue higher education and access reproductive healthcare.

Noof fled to the UK in 2019 but returned home in October after the Qatar authorities apparently gave assurances she would be safe. Her case – which highlights discrimination facing women in the Gulf state – became a cause celebre two years ago when a video documenting her journey to Britain went viral. (File image of Qatar’s capital Doha)

In March, Noof appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, claiming she suffered constant ‘physical and emotional abuse’ at the hands of ‘some of my family members’. She said her freedom of movement was also restricted.

Her decision to return to Qatar took many by surprise. In a video, she said: ‘I had a normal life in the UK, until that day when I felt I did not belong there, and that I wanted to live in my home country, but there were many difficulties, fears and dangers if I wanted to go back to my country.’

She added: ‘I’m still the same Noof who ran away defending women’s rights.’

Rothna Begum, senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, told The Mail on Sunday: ‘It has been more than two months since Noof has been heard from.

‘We and her friends have not been able to contact her. Denying or preventing someone access to the outside world would amount to incommunicado detention.

‘We have requested to hear directly from her regarding her own wishes of what assistance she seeks from the state including for her protection and care. 

‘Holding anyone against their wishes, irrespective of where, without any legal basis would amount to arbitrary detention.

‘We have repeatedly called on the Qatari authorities to ensure Noof al-Maadeed is not in any form of detention; to allow her access to the outside world, including her phone; and to support her decisions to live an independent life.’

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