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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

#WheresNoof: Reported death of ‘missing’ Qatari woman dismissed


The young Qatari woman announced her return to Qatar from the UK on 30 September—where she sought asylum in 2019.

23-year-old Qatari Noof Al Maadeed, who had fled the country following years of alleged domestic abuse, is alive and still receiving protection in Qatar, Doha News has learned.

The latest development comes as social media users in Qatar and beyond increase calls for transparency, demanding information over her whereabouts.

Al Maadeed disappeared from social media on 13 October after saying she was feeling unsafe, raising questions over her safety. This led to a barrage of tweets under the hashtag #WhereIsNoof, in which demands for answers grew.

On 15 October, influential Qatari women’s rights activist and scholar Dr. Amal Al Malki said a “reliable source” informed her that Al Maadeed was in safe hands.

However, Al Maadeed’s absence from social media and lack of updates since has raised concerns over her safety.

On Tuesday, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights [GCHR] published a report alleging Al Maadeed was reportedly killed after being kidnapped by her family on the day of her disappearance. The report failed to provide evidence for this allegation.

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

While the GCHR report did note Qatari officials did not confirm reports of her death, the lack of transparency and subsequent confusion has been met with skepticism and outrage on social media.

“There’s a great chance that this ‘report’ is published just to put pressure on the government to comment with no sources what so ever to back their claims. They even question their non existent sources in the article by asking for proof for her life if she wasn’t murdered,” said one Twitter user.

Another said: “Do you think rumors would spread if there was an official statement of her whereabouts and safety? No. Rumors will keep spreading unless officials decide to finally tell us what’s really going on here, even though this is clearly not a reliable source.”

Hessa Al Maadeed, a cousin of the 23-year-old, also confirmed 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 Qatar.

In a later tweet, the relative Noof said: “Guys be careful of this ‘boycott qatar’ accounts. They don’t care about Noof or anything we go through. They’re using valid struggles to feed their racism against Qatar”.

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 has yet to publish any updates.

While Al-Madeed previously tweeted that “she does not need to send hourly updates, her  silence online has since raised concerns, with many rallying to find answers.

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 over her wellbeing.

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