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Sunday, July 25, 2021

International support grows for Qatar expat who reported rape in Dubai

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As more details emerge about the case of a Qatar-based expat who faces jail time in Dubai after reporting a rape, international support for Marte Deborah Dalelv is growing.

The 24-year-old Norwegian interior designer, who said she was raped by a colleague during a business trip to Dubai in March, was apparently sentenced this week by a Dubai court to 16 months in jail for perjury, having sex outside of marriage and drinking without a license.

Her alleged attacker, who denied any sexual encounter took place, was sentenced to 13 months for extramarital sex and drinking (a gray area for tourists in Dubai).

More than 42,000 people have so far signed a petition calling for the release of Dalelv, who is travel banned from leaving the UAE and has lost her job in Doha, where she lived for two years, her friends have told Doha News. Her appeal is on Sept. 5.

What happened

Dalelv, who has decided to go public with her story and spoke to numerous news outlets over the weekend, said that during her business trip, she asked her colleague, a married father of three, to walk her to her hotel room after leaving a bar around 3am. 

He then pulled her into a room that wasn’t hers, she told CNN:

“He dragged me by my purse in, so I thought, ‘OK, I just need to calm the situation down. I will finish my bottle of water, I will sit here and then I will excuse myself and say I feel fine,’” she said.

That was pretty much the last thing she said she remembers before the alleged sexual assault. “I woke up with my clothes off, sleeping on my belly, and he was raping me. I tried to get off, I tried to get him off, but he pushed me back down.”

Dalelv eventually went downstairs to the hotel lobby and insisted they call the police.

She told the Associated Press that she was given a medical examination seeking evidence of the alleged attack and underwent a blood test for alcohol. She was detained for four days before she was released with the help of her embassy. Since March, she has been staying at the Norwegian Seamen’s Center in Dubai.

Since that night, Dalelv and her alleged attacker have been in and of the prosecutor’s office several times. At one point, the expat explained to CNN that she changed her story and said that the sex was consensual, based on advice she received from her manager. It was then that a count of making a false statement was added to her charge sheet.

“That was my biggest regret because it wasn’t voluntary. I just thought it would all go away,” she said.

Lost job

Her former employer, Al Mana Interiors, has said in a statement that she was given that advice in Arabic by a police officer, and that her manager simply translated it into English. 

Speaking to Doha News, friends of Dalelv said she was fired from The One, which operates under Al Mana, in April.

According to a copy of the termination letter obtained by Norwegian newspaper VG, Al Mana cites “unacceptable and improper behavior” during her trip to Dubai as a reason for her firing. It is signed by company owner Wissam Al Mana, who made headlines last year after secretly marrying Janet Jackson.

But the company said of the termination:

“The decision had nothing to do with the rape allegation, and unfortunately neither Ms. Dalelv nor her attorneys have chosen to contact the company to discuss her employment status.”

In Qatar, Dalelv’s case has stirred up heated discussions about women’s rights in the Gulf and Islam, with some residents saying police officers here did not take their stories of assaults seriously.

Thoughts?

Credit: Photo courtesy of Free Marte on Facebook

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