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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Hundreds attend funeral of Emirati dissident Alaa Al-Siddiq in Qatar


The Emirati dissident previously sought political asylum with her husband Abdulrahman Bajubeir in Qatar in an attempt to flee a crackdown on activists by Abu Dhabi.

Hundreds of people attended the funeral prayers and burial of Emirati human rights defender Alaa Al-Siddiq in the Qatari capital on Sunday evening, a week after she was killed in a car crash in London.

Images and videos showed scores of mourners flock to the Mesaimeer cemetery in Doha after the evening Maghrib prayers to lay the activist to rest.

Alaa Al-Siddiq: The smearing of an Emirati hero

“You can hardly find a spot to park to say goodbye to Alaa Al-Siddiq,” prominent journalist Yasser Abu Hilaleh said on Twitter.

“The grave is a window to heaven, and for the oppressed, the gardens of eternity.. Elevated in life and in death, Alaa Al-Siddiq. God made the Gardens of the immortal your abode. May he take revenge on those who wronged you and increase the patience of your detained father, your family and your loved ones,” he added.

Al-Siddiq died in a car accident on an evening out to celebrate her 33rd birthday near London last week.

Skepticism over her death

Her sudden death drew skepticism by the international community, given her vocal opposition to the UAE and its recent normalisation with the Israeli occupation.

A day after her death last week, US-based advocacy group Democracy for the Arab World Now [DAWN] urged Emirati authorities to immediately enable the return of her body to the UAE so that she can be buried in her homeland, while calling for the release of her father Muhammed Al-Siddiq, or at least for him to be allowed to attend his daughter’s funeral.

“The very least Emirati authorities could do is to repatriate Al-Siddiq’s body and allow her father to leave prison to attend a funeral and properly grieve her loss,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of DAWN.

Both of those wishes were denied by Emirati authorities and her family requested she be buried in Qatar instead.

DAWN also called on UK authorities to investigate the car crash that led to her death.

“While we have no reason to believe that Al-Siddiq’s death was nothing but a tragic accident, we need UK authorities to reassure us that no foul play was involved, given the Emirati and Saudi government’s record of surveilling, targeting and harassing activists and their families abroad,” added Whitson.

Read also: Rights group urges immediate probe into death of Emirati dissident Alaa Al-Siddiq

According to DAWN, Thames Valley Police published an urgent appeal for witnesses to the crash, in which three others were also injured, including the driver of the second vehicle.

Al Siddiq was also the Executive Director of DAWN’s partner organisation ALQST, a leading UK-based advocacy organisation for human rights in the Gulf. She received her masters in Public Policy from the Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Qatar Foundation.

“Al-Siddiq was inspired, not defeated, by the injustice experienced by her father, Muhammed Al-Siddiq, to seek justice for all of the people of the Gulf region deprived of basic human rights,” said Whitson, who is also a board member of ALQST.

She has been defending the rights of prisoners of conscience in the UAE, including the plight of her father who is has been held in an Emirati jail cell since 2012 for his peaceful calls for political reform. His activism led to the stripping of his citizenship.

“Al-Siddiq’s commitment and perseverance are a model for all of us. We are confident the work of ALQST will continue; it is needed now more than ever,” Whitson added, speaking of the deceased activist.

Her death sparked an outpouring of condolences from major rights defenders online, including the wife of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi who was murdered by Saudi agents in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate in 2018.

Qatar asylum

Al-Siddiq sought political asylum with her husband Abdulrahman Bajubeir in Qatar in 2012, when Emirati authorities launched a widespread crackdown on political dissidents between 2011-2012.

She then followed her husband to London, where she lived in exile since 2019.

In a 2018 interview with Qatar TV, Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said that a dispute had occurred between Qatar and the UAE in 2015 concerning a political dissident’s wife.

The UAE sent a special envoy to Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and demanded that Qatar hand over the woman for arrest – a request that Qatar refused.

This caused a dispute between the Gulf nations in 2015, just two years ahead of the 2017 blockade.

Although the Qatari official fell short of mentioning her name, it was later clarified that the woman in question was indeed Al-Siddiq, according to editor-in-chief of the Qatar-based newspaper Al-Arab, Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Athba.

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