A movement emerged to defend “Qatari values” after a Human Rights Watch report on Qatari women was published.
Qatari women took to social media following a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on the plight of women in the Gulf state, denouncing the report as misconstrued.
Social media users, many of which women, said the leading rights organisation should not be speaking on their behalf and interfering in their affairs.
Qatari media personality Elham Bader took aim at the report, saying it missed achievements of Qatari women and focused on oppression.
“You have ignored the history and achievements of Qatari women, whether intentionally or unintentionally. As Qataris, we have achieved great achievements that requires the appreciation of the state for its support and the strengthening of our position. We do not accept that we are used in a way that detracts from us in hypothetical theories of women’s oppression,” Al Bader said.
“You have fallen in the wrong place with the wrong women,” she added.
Meanwhile, Twitter user Maryam Al Khater said: “We as Qatari women refuse external interference and we refuse to compromise our beliefs and values. We have not appointed HRW to speak on our behalf and demand our rights. Our religion has granted us those rights a thousand and four hundred years ago”.
Another tweet read: “HRW! We only say stop interfering! Qatar and Qatari women are none of your business! We can stand for ourselves and speak for our rights! We are happy with our rights that were given to us by Islam and protected by our men and government!”
HRW! We only say stop interfering! Qatar and Qatari women are none of your business! We can stand for ourselves and speak for our rights! We are happy with our rights that were given to us by Islam and protected by our men and government! #قطريات_ضد_اسقاط_الولاية
— عائشة الخليفي🇶🇦 (@Aishaalkhulaifi) March 30, 2021
The tweets defended Qatar and said the state and Islam have both provided women with adequate rights and protection. The report, they said, was an attack on Qatari values.
One Twitter user described the report as a “deliberate distortion of the image of women in the Qatari Muslim community”.
The HRW report, titled “’Everything I Have to Do is Tied to a Man’: Women and Qatar’s Male Guardianship Rules,” compiled 50 interviews of women affected by the male guardianship system that restrains women on a number of fronts. This includes the right to travel, obtain college degrees as well as access to adequate gynecological care.
Women interviewed by HRW reported they have been denied permission to drive, travel abroad, study, work, or even marry a person of their own choice—all of which have drastically affected their mental wellbeing.
However, the cases also revealed that while there are no clear laws to legitimise the ongoing discrimination and treatment of women as second-class citizens, the issue lies in the fact that Qatar consists of a male-dominated society.
We as Qatari women refuse external interference and we refuse to compromise our beliefs and values. We have not appointed HRW to speak on our behalf and demand our rights. Our religion has granted us those rights a thousand and four hundred years ago#قطريات_ضد_اسقاط_الولاية
— M Alkhater (@mariam_AA2) March 30, 2021
But people have called the report a “systemic campaign” to smear the image of Qatar on a global scale.
Weighing in on the testimonies of the women, leading Qatari feminist and Founding Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Hamad Bin Khalifa University Dr. Amal Al Malki believes that cultural norms create a large obstacle to progress for women in the country.
A feminist herself, the academic told Doha News that she had previously been attacked for advocating for women’s rights.
“I hope that authorities respond to the 73 cases in the report to give them the justice and acknowledgement they need instead of addressing the HRW as an organisation,” she said.