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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Qatari activist Noof Al Maadeed alive


The young Qatari woman announced her return to Qatar from the UK on 30 September—but was ‘missing’ for months leading to rumours she had been killed. 

Qatari activist Noof Al Maadeed, who had fled the country following years of alleged domestic abuse, has reappeared on Twitter assuring the public that she is safe and receiving good protection.

The 23-year-old woman disappeared from social media on 13 October 2021 after saying she was feeling unsafe, raising questions about her whereabouts. This led to thousands of tweets under the hashtag #WhereIsNoof, in which demands for answers regarding her wellbeing grew.

However, after months of speculations, the activist finally returned to social media under a new account @Justnoof98, where she thanked all those who advocated for her safety.

“Hello everyone, I am back on social media on this new account because I lost the password for my old one. I am safe and healthy and posting this video so I can assure everyone who fought for my safety. Thank you,” Noof said.

In a further bid to assure her supporters, Noof posted another video with the date to dismiss any speculations that the previous recording was fabricated or pre-dated.

“Those who doubt the authenticity of the video, today is January 9, 2022. Noof is here. Noof is alive. Noof did not die,” the video added.

Noof also tweeted a third video informing people that she is in Doha and is safe and sound. Her absence from social media prior to Sunday’s updates raised concerns over her safety amongst activists and human rights organisations.

Following her posts on Sunday, Noof’s videos quickly circulated social media regionally, with hundreds rushing to welcome her back and expressing their happiness and relief for her safety.

Speculations ‘dismissed’

The latest appearance from Noof come months after the Gulf Centre for Human Rights [GCHR] published a report alleging Al Maadeed had been killed after being kidnapped by her family on the day of her disappearance. The report failed to provide any evidence to substantiate the allegation.

A week later, a Qatari official speaking on the condition of anonymity confirmed Al Maadeed was safe, in good health, and being protected, according to the Guardian.

Hessa Al Maadeed, a cousin of the 23-year-old, also confirmed back then that the GCHR as false, tweeting: “To everyone in my DMs asking about Noof… #FreeNoofNow #WhereIsNoof I can’t say EXACTLY where she is, I know she is alive”.

The GCHR report has since been shared by various accounts, including bots calling for a “boycott” of the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

However, since no updates were issued at the time of the report, hundreds of people demanded authorities’ demonstrate transparency and disclose information that proved the young activist was indeed well and good.

For now it seems that those who have been concerned over Noof’s wellbeing can breath a sigh of relief.

“Thank God for her safety, we feared that the worst would happen, but it is clear that she is being held captive by her family. The Qatari government should investigate the matter and act to make up for its severe shortcomings in the past in this matter,” a Twitter user said.

Return from the UK

Al Maadeed announced her return to Qatar from the UK on 30 September – where she sought asylum in 2019. Her return to her home country, where she complained of abuse from her family, had been hailed as a “brave move” by many.

The young Qatari had been documenting her case on social media, and in one post, said she decided to return home due to her full confidence in authorities to protect her from any threats.

On 13 October, Al Maadeed published a tweet saying she was not safe before shortly sending another that said she was “a bit more okay”.

Shortly after, she disappeared from social media and the only proof of her whereabouts were tweeted on Sunday, January 9.

Speaking to Human Rights Watch [HRW] in 2019, Al Maadeed said she had suffered abuse by her family and that her freedom of movement was restricted.

Read also: #WheresNoof? Qataris search for answers into fate of missing ‘abuse victim’

Al Maadeed said she was only allowed to leave the house for school. She told HRW that she tapped into the government’s Metrash app in 2019 through her father’s mobile phone to process her exit permit.

She then climbed out of her bedroom window before flying out to Ukraine and then onto the UK.

Ahead of her return , Al Maadeed assured more than 12,000 Twitter followers that the issues she had faced back home had been “resolved” and that she would not flee the country again.

“This would literally not be possible without my family’s support,” tweeted Al Maadeed on 29 September, the same day she announced the withdrawal of her asylum application.

Then on 11 October, after leaving quarantine in Doha, Al Maadeed said she was not “100% okay” as the people coordinating her safe return were unaware of the dangers she could face from her alleged abusive family.

At another hotel facility, the young woman said she was visited by individuals who were not supposed to be anywhere near her, prompting her to seek refuge at a local police station.

Al Maadeed then claimed she met representatives from the Ministry of Interior [MOI] and insisted on going to the Amiri Diwan to meet Qatar’s Minister of Interior and Prime Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani, who she had hoped would resolve her case.

On the same day, the 23-year-old said she remained at the police station as she felt safer there than at the hotel, where she was subjected to alleged “murder attempts”.

Her father is thought to be among those who visited her at the hotel despite Al Maadeed warning authorities about the threats he posed to her wellbeing.

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