Qatari activist says Doha’s guardianship rules curtail women’s freedom to travel

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Despite its swanky airport and luxurious airline, Qatar is denying its women their basic freedom to travel through its guardianship rules, Qatari women's rights activist Aisha Al-Qahtani said.

“We are not allowed to travel and not so many people know about this,” she said in a video posted on twitter on Sunday.

“We have the ‘most fancy’ airport and the most luxurious airline. But what’s the point if women are not allowed to leave the airport unless they are 25? And even after 25, their parents–not actually parents, their male guardian–can forbid them from travelling just from an app. That’s it. We are kind of like a property, we are under an application. It’s so hard to accept such facts in 2020,” al-Qahtani said.

The video was shot earlier on the occasion of international women’s day on March 8, 2020 but resurfaced on Sunday when al-Qahtani retweeted it.

Qatar remains the only GCC country with male guardianship laws for female travel after Saudi Arabia lifted restrictions in 2019. According to the Qatari Ministry of Interior’s website, single women under 25 years of age require a male guardian’s consent to travel outside the country.

Qatari men can also apply to the courts to prohibit their wives from travelling. “Married women are entitled to travel without permission irrespective of their age. In case the husband doesn’t want her to travel, he has to approach the competent court to prevent her journey,” the ministry lists as another condition on its website.

Aisha al-Qahtani, the youngest daughter of a powerful figure in the Qatari military, fled to London in December 2019 while on a trip to Kuwait with her brother. But since landing in Britain, she was forced to move constantly and had reportedly faced harassment from relatives and Qatari officials.

In an earlier interview given to The Times of London, al-Qahtani said that women are treated as second-class people in Doha.

“People are not free to speak,” she said, adding that she lived a life of seclusion and violence, in a room with bars across the window.

In an interview to Al-Hurra TV on March 5, 2020, she had accused Qatar’s Aman Center for the Protection and Rehabilitation of Women of promising a lot but doing very little. “To tell you the truth, it doesn't do anything at all,” she said.

Read more:

Qatar only remaining GCC country restricting travel for women

Revamped guardianship laws usher in a new era for Saudi women

Saudi women no longer need permission of male guardian to travel

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