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Protected, discriminated against: this is how Qatari women live


Qataris are a double minority in a country governed by Islamic law and 70% of the population are men “Not even animals do. Associating with someone of the same sex is sick. How will that be human rights? Why does the West pressure us with [LGTBI] flags and bracelets? And how is it possible that they allow people to change their sex, to get hormonal, to decide if they want to be a man or a woman? We can't understand it,” says EAM, a 43-year-old Qatari, in a fancy cafe in Doha. She and her friend,

“Not even animals do.

Associating with someone of the same sex is sick.

How will that be human rights?

Why does the West pressure us with [LGTBI] flags and bracelets?

And how is it possible that they allow people to change their sex, to get hormonal, to decide if they want to be a man or a woman?

We can't understand it,” says EAM, a 43-year-old Qatari, in a fancy cafe in Doha.

She and her friend, FH, 45, have agreed to talk to EL PAÍS about her life in Qatar on the condition that they hide their full names and faces.

They are worried that someone will think they are seeking attention, but they believe there is a campaign against their country and agree to offer their point of view.

They are two Qatari women in a country where only 15% of its inhabitants are autochthonous and where more than 70% of the population are men, that is, a double minority.

They live in a place where religion is law.

They need the authorization of their fathers or husbands for almost everything important;

his testimony is worth half that of a man in court;

in the same degree of kinship, they inherit half that they do;

They cannot transmit their nationality to their children if they marry a foreigner (the other way around, yes) and while the man can divorce unilaterally, they have to go to court risking losing custody of the children.

FH and EAM pose from behind after chatting with EL PAÍS.

Jaime Villanueva

We are talking about the male guardianship regime.

F., married, owner of a wedding dress shop, replies: “We can choose, but we need your approval because we don't want to embarrass them, we want to see them happy, proud of us.

Our fathers and our husbands know what is best for us, they want the best for us”.

E. She adds: “Of course, they have more experience.

We ask for that approval because we want to.

Everything is discussed and there is mutual trust.

For example, it is very difficult for us to understand that, in Europe, if a girl has a boyfriend, she just leaves her family ”.

"It's just that I can't even imagine it," replies F.

virginity test



(Islamic law) prohibits sex outside of marriage in Qatar.

When the Mexican Paola Schietekat went to the Qatari police in June 2021 to denounce that a man had attacked her in her room while she was sleeping, she ended up accused of having an extramarital relationship because the attacker, who was released, said they were dating. .

The local lawyer assigned to her recommended that she “marry him” to avoid problems and during a three-hour interrogation —she— was asked to take a virginity test on her.

Paola managed to leave the country – “I had never breathed with more relief than when my passport was stamped” – but the case – against her, never against him – was not closed until last April.

On the phone from Mexico, she explains that she had arrived in Qatar in 2020 very excited to work as an economist in the World Cup organizing committee.

“It was my dream job.

I speak Arabic and I love soccer.

I thought I could help change things from within."

She wanted to denounce her attacker in Qatar because when her first boyfriend raped her when she was 16 years old, she had not dared.

The dream turned into a nightmare.

Today, at the age of 28, he is still suffering from the consequences of that terrible episode: "I have worked a lot to recover, I go to therapy, but I still have to take medication to sleep and all this has affected my confidence in other people."

It was not the first and tomorrow it may happen again.

In 2016, a tourist from the Netherlands was sentenced to one year in jail and a fine after being raped.

The authorities of her country managed to reduce her punishment for being raped to three months in prison.

It is the most rigorous interpretation of Islam that prevents in these cases from conceiving that the victim is the victim, although the Criminal Code of Qatar establishes penalties of 15 years for anyone who forces a woman "to commit adultery."

But F. and E. do not fear


, quite the contrary.

“Religion is like a big umbrella that protects you and in our country, moreover, it is the law.

This implies that from a young age they teach us how we should behave, what our way of being in the world should be, and we are very grateful for that," says F. "Islam makes our lives easier in all aspects because it is a solid and common.

It is a relief to know that everyone around you is governed by your same values.

that is



And depending on what you do, there is a reward or a punishment.

Why is a man's testimony worth more in court?

Because men do not have our sensitivity and hormones.

It is not a matter of equality, but of justice.

And why do they inherit more money?

Because they have to attend to all the women in their lives.

Everything has a meaning”, abounds E.

Both are concerned about the new generations of Qataris.

“They have more pressure because they receive many external impacts.

The world is open thanks to the internet and parents are finding it increasingly difficult to control what their children think.

They must be aware of the danger,” says F.

Two women wait for the opening match of the World Cup between Qatar and Ecuador to finish outside the Al Bayt stadium in Doha.Jaime Villanueva

Qatar ranks 137th in the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Index, which measures inequality in terms of health, education, economic and political indicators.

The Spanish Arabists Ignacio Álvarez-Ossorio and Ignacio Gutiérrez de Terán explain in their book

Qatar, the pearl of the Gulf

, that in European parameters "it is certainly deficient", but if compared with "other petromonarchies", the emirate would rise "to the first places".

Early feminist voices

51% of women have a job in Qatar, most of them in the public sector, although they earn less than men for the same job.

They are the majority in the emirate's universities.

Many men go to study abroad and they need their father's permission to do so.

Amal Mohammed Al-Malki convinced his and today she is dean of the Faculty of Humanities at Hamad Khalifa University.

She introduces herself like this: "I am a mother, a woman, a Qatari, a Muslim, an Arab, a teacher and a feminist."

After spending a few years training in London, she returned to her country, she started a blog and currently she runs a podcast,

Women of the Middle East

, where she interviews other Arab feminists.

Al-Malki rejects the guardianship system and in his talks he often repeats that such rules have nothing to do with religion, but with a "patriarchal" interpretation of Islam.

She is convinced that education is "the great lever of change" and that activism must be done from within to change not only laws, but also minds and attitudes.

Culture, she explains, is never static.

And it should not be the excuse to prevent women from developing their full potential.

In 2012, with the head of the department of English at the college, she published the book

Arab Women in Arab News, Old Stereotypes and New Media.

, where they verified their invisibility in the press.

In one of her last podcasts, the academic interviewed the Qatari singer Aisha, one of the voices of the official World Cup song.

“At the beginning I myself saw it impossible to follow this path because of all the difficulties I knew I would find.

And in my close circle, my family, although there was a lot of love, it was difficult for them to process it, it seemed very strange to them.

I had to accept that I was going to lose people, comfort... I knew that being in the spotlight I was going to receive comments, hate... that not everyone was going to approve of what I was doing.

And I had to make myself strong.

It may seem like it's just one song, but it's five years in the making of all of this.

Now I am myself and I think that the more I am myself, the more I help others to be, ”she explains on the program.

Everything I do depends on a man

Asthma, 40 years

After interviewing 50 women living in Qatar and analyzing 27 of its laws, Human Rights Watch published in 2021 a comprehensive 103-page report on discrimination in the emirate.

"Everything I do depends on a man," explained Asma, 40.

“When I turned 17, a cousin of mine – marriages between relatives are common in Qatar – asked for my hand.

He told me that he would live in the US for work.

And I didn't see it as a marriage, but as an opportunity to escape, ”she recounts.

She married thinking that this way she would free herself from her paternal guardianship, but she fell into that of her husband, who mistreated her and further restricted her movements.

Dana, 20, explains in her report that she had to lie, say she was married, and give a friend's name and number as if she were her husband to get urgent treatment for endometriosis:

"They refused to give me a medical test because I was not married."

Ghada, 48, abounded in discrimination in the event of divorce: "I could not marry again because I would lose custody of my daughter."

The report concluded with fifty recommendations that HRW sent by letter to the Qatari authorities.

So far, without much effect.

The emirate is an absolute monarchy, where political parties are not allowed.

The executive power corresponds to the emir and the Council of Ministers, where there are 15 men and three women (they occupy the portfolios of Health, Education and Family).

EAM recalls the data at breakfast with EL PAÍS: “There are three women ruling.

But we don't have to work if we don't want to.

We have nothing to prove.

It's like driving.

It is exaggerated in the media that women are not allowed to do so - Saudi Arabia lifted the ban in 2018 - or that they need their husband's approval to obtain the card - that was the case in Qatar until 2020 - as a way of attacking our culture and tear down the family unit.

I have a driver who takes me.

And nothing happens".

Like her friend, E. has a degree in computer science.

Last Thursday, the French Stéphanie Frappart became the first woman in history to direct a World Cup match.

And it was in a Qatari stadium, Al-Bayt was also accompanied by the Brazilian Neuza Back and the Mexican Karen Díaz as assistants.

At the Doha fan festival, with giant screens, these days you could see a few groups of Qatari friends following the games in their abayas and perhaps the shirt of their favorite team under the black cloak.

On the subway, inside those heavy clothes, they could also be heard laughing when they saw fans from different countries with wigs and painted faces.

Noof al Maadeed, the young Qatari feminist who fled to the United Kingdom in 2020 after denouncing "assassination attempts" by her relatives, returned in 2021 because she felt strange.

Leaving the social networks where she had been so active,

human rights defense organizations feared for his life.

One day she returned to Twitter to announce that he was fine and proudly spread, on the same network, the photo of a ticket for the World Cup.

Qatar and FIFA want to put all eyes on the pitch, but life is what happens outside, between matches.

And there, the emirate violates article 35 of its own Constitution every day: "All people are equal before the law and therefore, there should be no discrimination based on sex, race or religion."

Three women stroll along the Doha bay shortly before the start of the World Cup.

Jaime Villanueva

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Source: elparis

All sports articles on 2022-12-04

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