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“I am not weak”: Qatari women fail in first legislative elections

Voters chose none of the 26 women who stood for election in Qatar’s first legislative elections on Saturday, disappointing candidates who wanted to give a voice to women and other Qataris in the Gulf monarchy’s political process.

The vote was for 30 members of the 45-seat Advisory Shura Council, while the Emir would continue to appoint the remaining 15 members of the body who could approve a limited range of policies for the small but wealthy country, which bans political parties. .

“It is not Qatar’s vision to keep all the men,” said Aisha Hamam Al-Jasim, 59, a nursing manager in Doha’s Markhia district. She urged Qatari women to “voice what they believe in” and vote for stronger women candidates in the future.

“For the first time in Qatar, this is an opportunity to participate in the political,” she said as people tricked into the first elections on Saturday.

Like fellow female candidates, Jasim said she had come across some men who thought women should not run. Highlighting his administrative skills, he focused on policy priorities such as health, youth employment and retirement.

“I just say: I’m strong, I’m capable. I see myself as fit as a man … If you want to see me weak, it’s up to you, but I’m not weak, ” He said at the polling station where men and women had separate entrances.

While Qatar has introduced reforms in women’s rights in recent years, including allowing women to obtain driving licenses freely, it has been criticized by rights groups for issues such as the guardianship system, where a Females need male permission to marry, travel, and access reproductive health care. .

Human Rights Watch said in March that in 2019, when women tweeted from an anonymous account about Qatar’s guardianship system, the account was closed within 24 hours of cyber security officials calling a woman.

 

Naima Abdulwahab al-Mutawa, a candidate and foreign ministry activist whose elderly mother had come to vote for her, wanted to press for a body advocating for women and children.

Several female candidates were seeking to improve integration into Qatari society of the children of female citizens married to foreigners who, like other Gulf states, cannot pass on Qatari nationality to their children.

Qatar has one woman minister: Minister of Public Health Hanan Mohamed Al Quwari.

While Jassim stopped advocating for passports, fellow candidate Lina al-Dafa called for full citizenship for children in such cases.

Dafa, a writer, does not see those opposing women in the shura council as a hindrance because the ruling aristocracy – and the law – favors female participation.

“The law gives me this right… I don’t care what offensive people say about it,” he said, adding that the women were best suited to discuss their issues.

Al-Maha Al-Majid, a 34-year-old industrial engineer, stood for election to change the mindset, with his policies.

Al-Maha al-Majid, a candidate in Qatar’s Shura Council election, poses for a photo next to an election poster in Doha, Qatar September 30, 2021. (Reuters)

“To convince men (to vote for women), yes, we may have to work or put in extra effort…,” she said.

For some, the attitude is hard to shake.

The male candidate, 65-year-old Saban al-Jassim, supports women running for election, but said her primary role remains in the family.

“They are here, they have their fingerprints and they have the vote and the voice… But most important at home, taking care of the children with the families,” he said at a polling station. across the room from him.

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