Several female residents of the Pearl-Qatar have said that they’ve been approached by multiple men who exposed themselves in a sudden spate of incidents within the high-end residential community over the past month.
In the most serious episode shared with Doha News, a woman walking toward Spinneys in Porto Arabia with her two young children said she was approached last week by a “scruffy looking Indian laborer” who exposed himself and pressed his groin up against her hip.
Pearl authorities said that they are aware of multiple complaints, which they are investigating and have referred to police. Though they say the Pearl remains very safe, several women who spoke to Doha News have expressed concerns about the sudden spike in reported incidents.
They added that they fear that the perpetrators are becoming emboldened and that the severity of their actions will escalate.
‘Up until now, I’ve felt really safe’
In addition to reporting the assault to Pearl security, the female victim who was with her children shared what happened on a Facebook group for female residents of the island, which was forwarded to Doha News.
In the written account, she describes walking at approximately 3:30pm while carrying her daughter in her arms as her son rode his scooter. She said the man “walked directly at me” and pinned her up against the wall of the bridge she was crossing before walking away.
The woman declined to discuss the incident with Doha News, citing an ongoing police investigation.
This is not the only reported case of men exposing themselves at the Pearl. One active member of the Pearl Facebook group told Doha News that roughly 15 women have published accounts of crude harassment since the summer.
Yolanda, a 47-year-old woman originally from the Isle of Man who declined to give her last name, said she was walking her dog around 8:30pm about two weeks ago.
She told Doha News that she was heading to a park at Tower 18 as a man, who appeared to be of African origin and was wearing a colorful robe, was walking in the opposite direction toward her.
She said she had seen the man several times before, and that he had attempted to engage her dog by whistling and trying to pet him.
He did the same this particular evening as Yolanda walked past him. But on her way back home, the man approached her a second time and grabbed the dog’s leash and pulled it toward him.
When Yolanda picked her dog up, the man reached out to pet the animal, who nipped his hand.
“I said, ‘Look, he doesn’t like this,’” she recounted. She put her dog down and started to walk away when the man began to yell at her in a language she didn’t understand while pointing to the dog.
He then approached Yolanda and extended his right arm, with his palm open, toward her chest. She said she swung her left arm defensively and swatted his hand away, prompting him to grab his groin, and verbally referenced “his manhood.”
Yolanda shouted and swore at the man, who then walked away. She walked home and told the security guard outside her building, who didn’t appear to understand what she was saying, she said. She later reported it to the manager of her block and said she would file a formal report with with United Development Co., which owns and manages the Pearl-Qatar.
She describes her reaction as “shocked, annoyed and angry.”
“Up until now, I’ve felt really safe. I talk to everyone. I see lots of people walking around the park at night. I say hello. I’m still going out, I’m still talking to people. I’m trying not to generalize … but the fact that so many people have had these experiences doesn’t help. It is just going to create a divide here.”
Two other women say they’ve encountered multiple men staring at them while touching themselves over the last two weeks on the Pearl.
British expat Johanna Strutt, 34, was walking her dog 11 days ago in the early afternoon with two friends, heading to the gardens between Medina Centrale and Viva Bahriya.
A man, dressed in blue coveralls and an orange reflective vest, was walking in the same direction roughly 100 meters ahead, but kept turning around to look at the women, she said.
“There are always workers up there,” Strutt said, adding that nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary until the man started to walk in circles before sitting down on a bench.
As the women passed the man, they saw that he had exposed his private parts and was masturbating.
“We didn’t just happen upon him. He was walking and then stopped and looked at us,” recalled Sarah Harp, 31, a friend of Strutt who was also walking her dog that afternoon.
Harp took out her cell phone to take a picture, which prompted the man to leave.
The next incident happened three days later when Harp was walking her dog by herself sometime between 8:30 and 9am. A man dressed in light-colored pants, a navy top and reflective vest had his back toward her and was leaning against a wall. Her first thought was that he was relieving himself, but he then turned around, put his back against the wall and started to masturbate.
Harp again took out her cell phone to take a picture, but the man shielded his face with his construction helmet. She tried to pull it down, but her 30kg black dog began barking and the man took off.
“It is a big problem,” she said. “Some people think flashing is funny, but I fear it could escalate.”
A third incident took place five days ago as Harp was again walking toward the gardens. As she approached a large drained pond, she saw a man in blue coveralls about 15 meters ahead on her right. He was walking toward her, touching himself over his clothing.
“He was looking right at me and smiling,” she said.
Harp picked up a stone and threw it at the man. She missed, told him to “stop it” and threatened to set her dog on him. The man’s smile disappeared and he walked off quickly around a building.
A few days later, Harp said she saw a man standing outside a pickup truck touching himself, but she concedes she doesn’t know if he was acting inappropriately or if he was just scratching himself and that the recent incidents have made her overly suspicious.
While none of the women who spoke to Doha News said they felt scared for their safety or called for drastic changes in security levels, some said the sheer number of recent incidents has been unsettling.
“I don’t feel particularly threatened, but I wouldn’t want to walk alone at the moment,” Strutt said. “The fear is that it escalates and turns into something else.”
All inquiries to managers responsible for security at the Pearl-Qatar were referred to UDC officials.
Corporate communications director Roger Dagher told Doha News in an email that police are continuing to investigate “a couple of complaints” and are not updating the Pearl-Qatar on their progress. He encouraged any resident or visitor to immediately call police if they are in a suspicious situation or feel threatened.
“While we will continue to immediately relay any violations or safety complaints to police authorities as and when we receive them, The Pearl-Qatar, just like all key Doha areas and neighborhoods, remains a very safe and welcoming place.”