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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Support group formed to ease Amazon adventurers’ return to Qatar

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With reporting from Riham Sheble

A number of Qatar residents, mostly locals, have set up a support program for the seven Qatari youth who are currently rebuilding a school in Brazil as part of a charity effort.

The volunteers have come under fire over the past week, as many members of the local community engage in a debate about Qatari identity and cultural norms.

At issue is whether it is appropriate for Qataris to go on a mixed-gender trip without parental supervision, and for women to remove their headscarves and/or abayas while abroad.

In response to the criticism, Vodafone Qatar this week pulled its name from the “Qatar Firsts” initiative, which it had started and is continuing to fund under contractual obligation.

For their part, the volunteers have said they will continue their work in Brazil, with the help of local production company Mediadante, which was originally hired to film the endeavor.

What’s next

The team is expected to return to Doha on Aug. 28, and relatives of the adventurers – particularly the four females ones – have said that the women are shocked and upset about the backlash.

To show their support for the volunteers, some Qatar residents have set up a coed support group that advocates against cyber-bullying and gender inequality. The position is in response to tweets about the Brazil trip, Islamic values and westernization:

https://twitter.com/F_AlSuwaidi/statuses/501309117793701889

Translation: There has to be a serious movement against this westernization wave. We do not want the young generation to grow up alienated from their religion and all that is good in our traditions.

Translation: The hashtag has proven that some of my people put personal freedom above Quran the Prophetic tradition. Is is a trivialization of Quranic teachings or veneration of the West?

Goals

In an email, the female Qatari founder of the support group urged people to contribute to society with their perspectives, and complaint to Vodafone’s main headquarters about what has happened.

So far, two hashtags have popped up on Twitter: #isupportqatarfirsts and #istandwithqatarfirsts.

Members are encouraging residents to use the hashtags to let the female trekkers know that they have support back home.

Some of the tweets so far include:

Connectivity in the Amazon has been limited, but volunteers do have access to the internet. While they are aware of the backlash, family members have told Doha News that the group is fully occupied with their endeavor and rarely check social media sites.

Family reaction

After Vodafone pulled out of the Amazon adventure trip, it took down a website that was supposed to regularly update readers with photos, videos and posts about the trip.

This means friends and family are no longer able to track their loved one’s moves or see what they’re up to.

However, Mediadante is apparently sending regular photographs and updates to parents’ emails, and families have also said they’re still in touch on a daily basis.

Medidante has also said that they will continue to post updates on their website, but no footage will be shared with the public until the trip is over.

A telephone is also being carried along by the group, and families have been provided with the number.

With the seven adventurers thousands of miles away, many of their loved ones have been dealing with the fallout at home.

Fahad Al Tamimi, a brother of one of the female volunteers, told Doha News that he has chosen to ignore critics and support his sister.

He said:

“None of them were well-informed. When I explained everything to my sister, she was shocked and didn’t know what to do. She asked if she should continue with the trip and I told her she definitely should and should forget about the minority of people expressing their extremism. It’s only their opinion.

She was unsure how to react at first because she didn’t want to cause any more commotion. She told me she won’t be wearing the abaya or veil because she’s in the middle of the Amazon and it’s far too hot. She did say that she would ensure she wore long sleeves and trousers though, and ensure she was respectful.”

Al Tamimi added that he had anticipated criticism from the local community, but didn’t expect it to get so nasty.

He also confirmed that his sister Leila, along with the three other women, are now determined to complete the trip for both themselves and the villagers who are relying on a new school for their children.

The women have become their own firm support network and are helping each other pull through, Al Tamimi said.

Other family members of the adventurers have expressed anger at the community reaction.

Nasser Al Naama has two sisters partaking in the excursion, and said he was disappointed with the actions of the public and Vodafone. Speaking to Doha News, he said:

“These innocent girls have been used as scapegoats for something that has nothing to do with them. People have made it a personal victory to see my family defamed and Vodafone has also abandon them.”

Al Naama’s parents also said that they fully support their daughters Aisha and Maqdeem, and have urged them to continue with their journey.

Al Naama’s mother told Doha News:

“Some people are only focusing on the hijab. I don’t understand why. It’s a personal choice. I wear a hijab and have done since I was 19 but they don’t want to. I don’t judge them because of it, and neither should anyone else.

People should focus on the girls’ education, ways of thinking and maturity rather than whether they cover their hair or not. If people don’t want to progress and change then what to do.”

The girls’ father expressed similar emotions, saying:

“We are very proud of our girls. They are not doing anything wrong. They are benefitting the country and society by taking on this humanitarian act.

There are a number of mix-gender groups that travel together. They’re certainly not the first Qataris to travel in male company without their male family members. It happens all the time with university trips, studying abroad and in the workforce.”

One family is so angered by both the cyber attacks and Vodafone’s actions that they are currently seeking legal recourse, telling Doha News:

“We have a consultation (this week), so we will see what action will be taken exactly. We will get two lawyers if we need to. We don’t care about the money. We will pay whatever is needed to protect our daughter. We won’t stop until justice is served.”

Thoughts?

29 COMMENTS

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Saleem
Saleem
6 years ago

I am tempted to fly to Rio to film scantily-clad women on Copacabana beach, then upload it on to youtube with a Vodafone Qatar logo.

The Reporter
The Reporter
6 years ago
Reply to  Saleem

No because that would be a deliberate insult to Qatari culture, and would just give ammunition to the intolerant.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

Bravo to these people, too often the loud voices of intolerance are heard above the reasonable majority and people are cowed into submission. There is no shame on what they have done and the one sided attack on females is unwarranted in any society and I hope their mothers and sisters scold them for their cold hearted attitude.

As for Vodafone shame on them, reacting quickly for sake of protecting their profits, rather than judging the situation on its merits and doing what is right and leaving these ladies to suffer bullying that Vodafone itself seems to condone through its actions. (Let’s fade it all the attacks were on the women, no one seems bothered about the men)

Chilidog
Chilidog
6 years ago

I’m guessing their arrival information might be held in confidence, and wouldn’t blame the group or families if it was. I guess the article stated their return date, and there are probably only one or two flights per day from Brazil, so it might not be too hard to deduce. But how cool would it be if a large group of Qataris and expats joined together to form a huge welcoming committee at the airport when the seven youths arrived back to Doha? I don’t know what the laws are in Qatar for that sort of thing, but it would probably be appreciated by these travelers to know that there are a lot of people that really do support them. Seeing that support first hand when they get through customs would certainly be encouraging. They deserve a hero’s welcome for all the crap their fellow citizens and VF have created for them to deal with!

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Chilidog

Great idea, don’t let the oppressors win! Freedom of choice for all of humanity!

Huzz
Huzz
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

I agree. DN could organise.

Illusionist's wife
Illusionist's wife
6 years ago

Now this article made me happy again, and I am so glad that the families of these 7 young adults are standing behind them. I salute to the 7 adventurer, their families and friends who support them, and I do hope that this whole controversy does not stop them, and also others, in doing good things in this world.
Chapeau once again, and I do like the idea of @disqus_aknoj75W58:disqus about a warm welcome for them … but guess it won’t be seen appropriate here …

A person with curiosity
A person with curiosity
6 years ago

surprised to see you joy because of their family support, its pretty simple logic “even for a crow, its own baby is a treasure”

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

I like Crows.

A person with curiosity
A person with curiosity
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

well me too, just because after BBQ party they keep my backyard clean.

Ivan Brendieswski
Ivan Brendieswski
6 years ago

They’re good with a nice cream sauce too.

A person with curiosity
A person with curiosity
6 years ago

🙂

Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

I assume you watch game of thrones then

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

I do but I like crows independently of that

Illusionist's wife
Illusionist's wife
6 years ago

Well, because it is not that common, and I have seen other examples where the family did not support their kids or relatives … and especially in this “delicate” matter … We think it is common and logic, but in reality it is not … that’s what made me happy, that a family is standing behind their kids and say they didn’t do anything wrong whereas part of the society is crying and complaining over the wrong-doing …

A person with curiosity
A person with curiosity
6 years ago

they are not doing anything wrong its a good cause

Illusionist's wife
Illusionist's wife
6 years ago

I know, I am not saying they are doing something wrong … But some people here were upset because of their dress code, that’s what I meant with wrong-doing …

Jaded
Jaded
6 years ago

100% right, many families could have caved under society’s pressure to conform and fix the “shameful” act committed… For those who need extra clarity, the use of ” ” indicates I personally don’t think they did anything wrong

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
6 years ago

It would be deliciously ironic if the action of Vodafone in cancelling their support for this charity work, in order to appease men who think girls should cover their hair, wakes up a large segment of the Qatari population who disagree with this sort of thinking. This could end up being a real turning point for the younger Qatari generation to have their voice heard.

Diego
Diego
6 years ago
Reply to  Michael Fryer

I am liking your way of thinking and see this as a possible “turning point”.

Rebecca Wyatt
Rebecca Wyatt
6 years ago

Bravo to these girls and their families! I’m a big supporter of teens getting out of their comfort zone, learning more about the world and doing their part to make life better for others. The more Qatari kids who do this, the better Qatari society as a whole will be as well. Life is not black and white – everyone needs to understand that their culture and customs aren’t universal and learn some tolerance.

outdoorsboys
outdoorsboys
6 years ago

Intolerance based on your religion, using religion as a stick to beat people with is exactly what is happening in Iraq at this time. My comment to those who critisised these young people is for them to take a long hard look at the teachings they follow before they let their intolerance hurt others.
I am so relieved to read that the intolerance expressed is being drowned out by common sense and the tolerance of the majority of Qataris.

Curiosity Killed the Cat
Curiosity Killed the Cat
6 years ago
Reply to  outdoorsboys

I agree any religion that uses shame and guilt to align people is just plain wrong. That goes for Catholicism too, hence I’m not religious. What those twitter bullies did was just so sad and I feel sorry for the youth of Qatar.

outdoorsboys
outdoorsboys
6 years ago

It goes for all religions. Intolerance is an excuse for controlling others

Curiosity Killed the Cat
Curiosity Killed the Cat
6 years ago

I hope DN are given a chance to interview them, I’d really like to know about their adventure, how they found it, the work they did. Seems a much more interesting story to me than reading about nannys running away in London. If Vodafone doesn’t want to report on it for PR purposes I hope DN will instead so these young persons get the recognition they deserve for doing such charitable things outside oppressive Qatar.

Turbohampster
Turbohampster
6 years ago

I am so happy to hear this!
It is great to see that the normally silent majority and their families have stood up for these completely innocent teenagers. I really hope that this campaign succeeds and the people trying to impose their own bigoted views on others by publicly shaming them are dealt with in the appropriate manner!
They have my full support and would gladly put my name to the petition

Diego
Diego
6 years ago

I love it.I am happy this support group emerged, feel they will grow and would enjoy it very much if those who made the students and their families feel bad could be at least taken to task, in Court, to see if they could be held accountable.

The Reporter
The Reporter
6 years ago

If 10% of the Qatari population have complained about the group then that equates to 20,000 people. The group should know that for the good work they are doing they have the support of every decent human being, and there’s a few billion of them.

Diego
Diego
6 years ago

After some second thought on the support group,which I wholely agree with,I have to wonder what is wrong with this whole picture if students who travel to promote good will and help disadvantaged youth build a school have to suffer at the hands of their own people.

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