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Qatar: Fears mount for missing activist under threat from family

Noof al-Maadeed returned to Qatar from the UK but has not been heard from on her social media for more than 24 hours
Noof al-Maadeed on her YouTube video (credit: Noof al-Maadeed)

Fears are mounting over the plight of Qatari activist Noof al-Maadeed, who has not been heard from for the past 24 hours since returning home earlier this week.

The 21-year-old activist left Qatar in late 2019, saying her family restricted her movement and beat her. 

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She requested asylum in the United Kingdom, recording her journey in a widely shared TikTok video.

During her time in the UK, Maadeed used her social media platforms to give advice on asylum requests and immigration.

However, she soon withdrew her asylum application in the UK, following assurances from the Qatari government about her safety. 

Since returning to Qatar on 1 October Maadeed has been keeping her Twitter followers updated on her status, saying that if they don’t hear from her she might have been returned to her family, who threatened her when she arrived in Doha.

She tweeted that she had reported the threats to the police. 

But having previously sent out daily updates, Maadeed hasn’t tweeted since 13 October.

“We do not know what her current whereabouts are, if she’s safe and if she’s able to communicate with the outside world,” Rothna Begum, senior women's rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, told Middle East Eye. 

#WhereisNoof has been trending on Twitter, with Lina al-Hathloul, the Saudi activist and sister of Loujain al-Hathloul, among those demanding to know her whereabouts.

'Noof's case is emblematic'

Women’s freedoms are restricted in Qatar, where a guardianship system prevents them accessing many of their basic rights without approval from male guardians. Without the permission of their fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers or husbands, many women cannot marry, pursue higher education or access reproductive healthcare.  

In order to leave the country, Maadeed took her father's phone to complete the necessary exit permit. 

“Noof’s case is emblematic to many women, who face violence at the hands of their family or threats to their life,” Begum told MEE. 

Human Rights Watch recently presented the Qatari government with evidence of relatives abusing women in their families. But, according to Begum, instead of helping the women live on their own, the authorities tried to reconcile them with their families and forced them to return home. 

Begum called on the Qatari authorities to ensure that Maadeed “is safe from any form of violence, that she is free to live her life as she wishes - and that she is able to access the outside world”. 

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