The Human Truth Foundation

Human Rights and Freedom in Qatar

By Vexen Crabtree 2019

#human_rights #Islam #qatar #qatar_human_rights #religion_in_qatar #Wahabi

State of Qatar

[Country Profile Page]
StatusIndependent State
Social and Moral Index63rd best
LocationAsia, The Middle East
Life Expectancy79.27yrs (2017)2

Strict Wahabi Islam serves as an impenetrable barrier against progress. Qatar is amongst the worst places in the world at ensuring human rights and freedom, and it has severe cultural issues when it comes to tolerance and equality. Qatar does better than average in commentary in Human Rights Watch reports3. However Qatar performs less well in most areas. It does worse than average in supporting press freedom4 (still low for Asia), supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms5, speed of uptake of HR treaties6, opposing gender inequality7, its nominal commitment to Human Rights8 and in freethought9. It falls into the worst 20 in terms of its success in fighting anti-semitic prejudice10 and in LGBT equality11 (one of the worst in Asia). And finally, it is second-from-the-bottom in the rate of gender bias (from 7 indicators)12. There is widespread and serious "legal, cultural, and institutional discrimination against, women and girls, LGBTI+ people, non-Qatari nationals, certain local tribes, and other minorities"13. Hundreds of preventable deaths annually may be attributable to poor labour protection law14. Progress is not helped by the fact that the richest 1% hold 29% of the country's entire income15.

1. Qatar's Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance

#equality #gender_equality #human_rights #morals #politics #prejudice #tolerance

Compared to Asia (2020)16
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Rank16
1Hong Kong24.3
Asia Avg99.9
Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance (2020)16
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Rank16
155Central African Rep.121.0
157Papua New Guinea122.2
World Avg87.9

The best countries in the world at ensuring human rights, fostering equality and promoting tolerance, are Sweden, Norway and Denmark17. These countries are displaying the best traits that humanity has to offer. The worst countries are The Solomon Islands, Somalia and Tuvalu17.

The data sets used to calculate points for each country are statistics on commentary in Human Rights Watch reports, its nominal commitment to Human Rights, speed of uptake of HR treaties, supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms, supporting press freedom, eliminating modern slavery, opposing gender inequality, the rate of gender bias (from 7 indicators), the year from which women could participate in democracy, its success in fighting anti-semitic prejudice, LGBT equality and freethought. The regions with the best average results per country are Scandinavia, Baltic States and Europe17, whereas the worst are Melanesia, Micronesia and Australasia17.

For more, see:

Amnesty International's 2023-23 summary on human rights in Qatar stated:

Migrant workers including domestic workers continued to face a range of abuses, including wage theft, forced labour, exploitation and abuse despite reforms. Authorities repressed freedom of expression to silence critical voices. Women continued to face discrimination in law and practice and needed the permission of a male guardian to study, travel or marry. Laws continued to discriminate against LGBTI people, putting them at risk of arrest and torture.

"The State of the World's Human Rights 2022/23" by Amnesty International (2023)18

2. Human Rights & Tolerance

2.1. Human Rights Watch Comments


Human Rights Watch Comments
Higher is better3
61Papua New Guinea-3
Asia Avg-5.0
World Avg-1.9
In terms of commentary in Human Rights Watch reports, Qatar ranks 60th in the world.

Human Rights Watch comments concentrate mostly on negative issues, however, they also make positive comments for those countries that engage in human rights defence around the world, or who make improvements at home. By adding up positive and negative comments (including double-points for negatives that involve large scales and crimes against humanity), the Social and Moral Index turns HRW commentary into quantified values. Some countries may be unfairly penalized because HRW have not examined them, and, some countries "get away" with abuses if they manage to hide it, or if it goes unnoticed - a negative point has been given for those countries in which HRW specifically state that access to investigators has been barred. The points were limited to a minimum of -10 because there are some points at which things are so bad, with abuses affecting so many, it is difficult to be more specific about the depths of the issues.

2.2. Nominal Commitment to HR


Nominal Commitment to HR
Higher is better8
2=Costa Rica23
155Saudi Arabia10
156=Solomon Islands10
156=Vatican City10
Asia Avg12.7
World Avg15.1
Qatar is 155th in the world when it comes to its nominal commitment to Human Rights.

There are many international agreements on human rights, and, many mechanisms by which countries can be brought to account for their actions. Together, these have been the biggest historical movement in the fight against oppression and inhumanity. Or, putting it another way: these are rejected mostly by those who wish to oppress inhumanely. None of them are perfect and many people object to various components and wordings, but, no-one has come up with, and enforced, better methods of controlling the occasional desires that states and peoples have of causing angst for other states and peoples in a violent, unjust or inhumane way. Points are awarded for the number of human rights agreements ratified by the country, plus the acceptance of the petition mechanisms for disputes. The maximum possible score in 2009 was 24.

2.3. HR Treaties Lag

#human_rights #international_law #micronesia #politics #small_islands

HR Treaties Lag
Lower is better6
Avg Yrs/Treaty6
120Vatican City11.34
Asia Avg10.97
World Avg10.02
Qatar ranks 119th in the world in terms of speed of uptake of HR treaties.

Human Rights (HR) Treaties Lag is a count of how long it took each country to sign each of 11 key HR treaties. From the date of the first signatory of each treaty, all other countries have one point added to their score for each day they delayed in signing. Results are presented as average time in years to sign each one. The lower a country's score, the more enthusiastically it has taken on international Human Rights Treaties - which are, of course, minimal standards of good governance. The slowest are the countries of Micronesia, Melanesia, Australasia and Polynesia all lagged by over 12 years per treaty. The best regions are The Americas, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean.

For more, see:

2.4. Personal, Civil & Economic Freedom

#freedom #politics

Personal, Civil & Economic Freedom
Lower is better5
1Hong Kong1
3New Zealand3
121=Timor-Leste (E. Timor)120
Asia Avg94.6
World Avg79.7
Qatar ranks 117th in the world when it comes to supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms.

The Human Freedom Index published by the Fraser Institute is...

... a broad measure of human freedom, understood as the absence of coercive constraint. It uses 79 distinct indicators of personal and economic freedom in the following areas: Rule of Law, Security and Safety, Movement, Religion, Association, Assembly, and Civil Society, Expression, Relationships, Size of Government, Legal System and Property Rights, Access to Sound Money, Freedom to Trade Internationally, Regulation of Credit, Labor, and Business. [...]

The highest levels of freedom are in Western Europe, Northern Europe, and North America (Canada and the United States. The lowest levels are in the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. [...]

Countries in the top quartile of freedom enjoy a significant higher per capita income ($37,147) [compared with] the least-free quartile [at] $8,700). The HFI finds a strong correlation between human freedom and democracy.

"The Human Freedom Index" by The Fraser Institute (2016)19

2.5. Press Freedom

#democracy #freedom #Freedom_of_Speech #Good_Governance #mass_media #politics #UK

Press Freedom
Lower is better4
Asia Avg4378
World Avg3249
(still good for Asia)Qatar is 109th in the world regarding supporting press freedom.

The freedom to investigate, publish information, and have access to others' opinion is a fundamental part of today's information-driven world, and is linked with Freedom of Speech and Good Governance. Scores on the Press Freedom Index are calculated according to indicators including pluralism - the degree to which opinions are represented in the media, media independence of authorities, self-censorship, legislation, transparency and the infrastructure that supports news and information, and, the level of violence against journalists which includes lengths of imprisonments. The index "does not take direct account of the kind of political system but it is clear that democracies provide better protection for the freedom to produce and circulate accurate news and information than countries where human rights are flouted". The rankings are used as one of the datasets of the Social and Moral Development Index20

It must be noted that press freedom is not an indicator of press quality and the press itself can be abusive; the UK suffers in particular from a popular brand of nasty reporting that infuses several of its newspapers who are particularly prone to running destructive and often untrue campaigns against victims. The Press Freedom Index notes that "the index should in no way be taken as an indicator of the quality of the media in the countries concerned".

2.6. Slavery

#burundi #eritrea #france #human_rights #indonesia #slavery

[In 2017] Qatar... ratified Law No.15 on service workers in the home... which will grant labor protections for the first time to Qatar´s 173,742 domestic workers. The new law guarantees domestic workers a maximum 10-hour workday, a weekly rest day, three weeks of annual leave, an end-of-service payment of at least three weeks per year, and healthcare benefits.

However, the new law is still weaker than the Labor Law and does not fully conform to the International Labour Organization (ILO) Domestic Workers Convention, the global treaty on domestic workers´ rights.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)14

Other serious labour protections are missing however, and there may be hundreds of preventable deaths annually as a result of poor labour protection law in the construction industry, especially regarding provisions to prevent heart attacks during the hottest hours of the day14.

Lower is better
% Victims21
12Hong Kong0.14
Asia Avg0.79
World Avg0.65
Qatar ranks 13rd-best in the world in terms of eliminating modern slavery.

The taking of slaves has been an unwholesome feature of Human cultures since prehistory22. Private households and national endeavours have frequently been augmented with the use of slaves. The Egyptian and Roman empires both thrived on them for both purposes. Aside from labourers they are often abused sexually by their owners and their owners' friends23. The era of colonialism and the beginnings of globalisation changed nothing: the imprisonment and forced movements of labour continued to destroy many lives except that new justifications were invented based on Christian doctrine and the effort to convert non-Christians. By 1786 over 12 million slaves had been extracted from Africa and sent to colonial labour camps, with a truly atrocious condition of life24. But they were not the only ones to blame; in Africa internal nations such as the Asantes sold and bought tens of thousands of slaves25.

The abolition of the slave trade was a long and slow process. Until a relatively modern time, even philosophers, religious leaders and those concerned with ethics justified, or ignored, the problem of slavery26. The first abolitionists were always the slaves themselves. Their protests and rebellions caused the industry to become too expensive to continue. After that, it was the economic costs of maintain slave colonies that led the British to reject and then oppose the slave trade globally. Finally, the enlightenment-era thinkers of France encouraged moral and ethical thinking including the declaration of the inherent value of human life and human dignity27. A long-overdue wave of compassionate and conscientious movements swept across the West, eliminating public support for slavery, until the industries and churches that supported it had no choice but to back down.

'Modern slavery' includes forced labour (often of the under-age), debt bondage (especially generational), sexual slavery, chattel slavery and other forms of abuse, some of which can be surprisingly difficult to detect, but often target those fleeing from warzones and the vulnerable.28. Some industries (diamond, clothing, coal) from some countries (Burundi29, Eritrea29, Indonesia30) are a particular concern. The Walk Free Foundation, say that in 2016, 40.3 million people were living in modern slavery31.

For more, see:

3. Gender Equality

Qatar is an unequal country, with male rights dominating those of women. Islamic beliefs are squarely to blame for this situation.

Like many Islamic countries, there is widespread and serious social, legal and institutional discrimination women13. For example, in schools, traditionalist patriarchal views are actively taught13: women are good for housework, child-rearing and obedience to men. Women can't pass on nationality to their children on the same basis as men14 but in 2017 it partially rectified this by approving a draft law to allow "permanent residence for children of Qatari women married to non-Qataris"14.

The 2006 family law discriminates against women in marriage, divorce, nationality, inheritance, and freedom of movement. For example, a woman´s testimony is worth half that of a man in certain types of cases. Inheritance laws discriminate against women; a female heir receives one-half the amount of an equivalent male heir. Women require the consent of their male guardians to get married. Only men can marry out of the Muslim faith, in which case, children are required to be Muslim.

"The Freedom of Thought Report" by Humanists International (2021)13

Qatar´s Law No. 22 of 2006 on Family and Personal Status continues to discriminate against women. Under article 36, a marriage contract is valid when a woman´s male guardian concludes the contract and two male witnesses are present. Article 58 states that it is a wife´s responsibility to look after the household and to obey her husband.

Other than article 57 of the family law forbidding husbands from hurting their wives physically or morally, and general provisions on assault, the penal code does not criminalize domestic violence or marital rape.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)14


3.1. Gender Inequality

#gender #gender_equality #human_rights #misogyny #women

Gender Inequality
Lower is better
Asia Avg0.36
World Avg0.36
Qatar comes 128th in the world when it comes to opposing gender inequality.

The UN Human Development Reports include statistics on gender equality which take into account things like maternal mortality, access to political power (seats in parliament) and differences between male and female education rates. Gender inequality is not a necessary part of early human development. Although a separation of roles is almost universal due to different strengths between the genders, this does not have to mean that women are subdued, and, such patriarchalism is not universal in ancient history. Those cultures and peoples who shed, or never developed, the idea that mankind ought to dominate womankind, are better cultures and peoples than those who, even today, cling violently to those mores.

For more, see:

3.2. Gender Biases

#gender #gender_equality #prejudice #women

Gender Biases
Lower is better
2New Zealand34.433
Asia Avg94.24
World Avg83.93
Qatar ranks 2nd-worst in the world, only Qatar is worse, when it comes to the rate of gender bias (from 7 indicators).

The Gender Social Norms Index (GSNI) looks at gender biases across seven criteria; the % given here is for the total people who are biased across any of those criteria. By subtracting the value from 100%, you can see that those who do well on this index, you are seeing a count of those who do not appear to be biased against women in any of the criteria, and so, doing well on this index is a very positive sign for any country.

The data was included in UN (2022) with full results in Annex table AS6.7.1; their data stems for ranges between 2005 and 2022, depending on the country in question.

3.3. Year Women Can Vote

#christianity #gender_equality #human_rights #politics #women

Year Women Can Vote
Lower is better
1New Zealand1893
188Saudi Arabia0
189Vatican City0
Asia Avg1907
World Avg1930
Qatar is 2nd-worst in the world, only Qatar is worse, when it comes to the year from which women could participate in democracy.

Women now have equal rights in the vast majority of countries across the world. Although academic literature oftens talks of when a country "grants women the right to vote", this enforces a backwards way of thinking. Women always had the right to vote, however, they were frequently denied that right. The opposition to women's ability to vote in equality with man was most consistently and powerfully opposed by the Catholic Church, other Christian organisations, Islamic authorities and some other religious and secular traditionalists.

For more, see:

4. Prejudice

4.1. Anti-Semite Opinions

#antisemitism #christianity #germany #indonesia #israel #jordan #judaism #laos #morocco #netherlands #pakistan #philippines #religion #religious_violence #saudi_arabia #spain #sweden #turkey #UK #vietnam

Anti-Semite Opinions
Lower is better
Asia Avg48.2
World Avg36.8
Qatar comes 11st-worst in the world when it comes to its success in fighting anti-semitic prejudice.

Anti-Semitism is the world given to irrational racism against Jews. It is not the same as anti-Judaism (involving arguments against the religion) nor the same as anti-Zionism (arguments against Israel). In history, influential Christian theologians concocted the arguments against Jews that led, very early on, to widespread Christian action against Jews34,35,36,37. As Christianity rose to power in the West and presided over the Dark Ages, there were widespread violent outbursts against Jews of the most persistent and horrible kind. The Crusades were frequently aimed at them and the feared Spanish Inquisition paid Jews particular attention. The horror of the holocaust instigated by German Nazis in the 1940s was followed (finally) by the era of European human rights and a movement against racism in general.

The places that are the least anti-Semitical are a few countries of south-east Asia (Laos, the Philippines and Vietnam) and some of the secular liberal democracies of Europe (Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK). The worst countries for antisemitism are Islamic states of the Middle East38, which are undergoing their own Dark Age. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, Indonesia, Pakistan and Turkey see the most oppressive and violent actions towards Jews39,40. Jews in Muslim countries face a host of restrictions and "ceaseless humiliation and regular pogroms"41. In 2004 the European Union Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia reported on violent anti-Jew crimes in the EU and found that that largest group of perpetrators were young Muslim males42.

For more, see:

It's safe to say that Qatari officialdom is steeped is hateful prejudice. Did the following professor lose his University position after espousing violence-inducing hatred in 2020? Of course not. In Qatar, it's not even a question.

[In 2020] Dr. Abdul-Jabbar Saeed [at] the state-run Qatar University, cited a hadith in which the Prophet Muhammad said that Judgment Day will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews, who will hide behind rocks and trees, which will in turn call upon Muslims to kill the Jews hiding behind them. Saeed said that victory would only be achieved through sacrifice of all that is precious and through the "blood of the martyrs and over the skulls of the enemies."

"The Freedom of Thought Report" by Humanists International (2021)13

4.2. LGBT Equality

#equality #homosexuality #human_rights #ICCPR #intolerance #sexuality #tolerance

There is no acceptance of LGBT folk in Qatar. Unchallenged and widespread "legal, cultural, and institutional discrimination exists13. No form of gay marriage is recognized, and as sex outside of marriage is illegal, Qatar therefore criminalizes homosexuality.

Qatar's penal code punishes sodomy with one to three years in prison. Muslims convicted of zina (sex outside of marriage) can be sentenced to flogging (if unmarried) or the death penalty (if married). Non-Muslims can be sentenced to imprisonment.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)14

LGBT Equality
Higher is better
191Solomon Islands-44
194Saudi Arabia-72
Asia Avg-02.1
World Avg12.6
Qatar comes 5th-worst in the world regarding LGBT equality.

Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) folk is rife across the world. Legal restrictions co-exist alongside social stigmatisation and physical violence43. LGBT tolerance and equal rights have been fought for country-by-country across the world, often against tightly entrenched cultural and religious opposition. Adult consensual sexual activity is a Human Right, protected by privacy laws44. Despite this, homosexual activity is outlawed in around 80 countries43. The Social & Moral LGBT Equality Index was created to compare countries and regions, granting points to each country for a variety of factors including how long gay sex has been criminalized and the extent of LGBT legal rights. Graded negative points are given for criminality of homosexuality, unequal ages of consent, legal punishments and for not signing international accords on LGBT tolerance. The signs in many developed countries are positive, and things are gradually improving. Europe is by far the least prejudiced region (Scandinavia in particular being exemplary). The Middle East and then Africa are the least morally developed, where cultural bias goes hand-in-hand with state intolerance, all too often including physical violence.

For more, see:

4.3. Freedom of Thought

#europe #freedom_of_belief #freethought #human_rights #netherlands #religion #religious_tolerance #secularism #the_enlightenment

Qatar belongs to the same puritanical Wahhabi branch of Islam as Saudi Arabia, its neighbour45, which is often at the absolute bottom of freedom of thought indices. In Qatar, there is not much religious activity outside of Wahhabi. Islamic schools are the only permitted kind13 and promoting any other religion other than Islam is illegal13. It does only apply its most restrictive religious laws to locals - so consistently, that in the evening, they shelve their traditional attire and sneak out en masse as the only way of having a free life away from their own oppressive laws. Some Islamist Qataris are unhappy that Islam is not universally applied45 and if they get their way in the future, the upholding of human rights in Qatar could worsen.

Freedom of Thought
Lower is better
Asia Avg3.7
World Avg3.0
Qatar is 21st-worst in the world in terms of freethought.

Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Belief are upheld in Article 18 the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights46. It affirms that it is a basic human right that all people are free to change their beliefs and religion as they wish47. No countries voted against this (although eight abstained). This right was first recognized clearly in the policies of religious toleration of the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe in the post-enlightenment era48 of the 19th century. In democratic countries, freedom of belief and religion is now taken for granted49. In 2016 a study found that over 180 countries in the world had come to guarantee freedom of religion and belief50. The best countries at doing so are Taiwan, Belgium and The Netherlands9,51 and the worst: Afghanistan, N. Korea, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia9,52.

Long-term studies have shown that religious violence and persecution both decrease in cultures where religious freedom is guaranteed53. Despite this, there still are many who are strongly against freedom of belief47, including entire cultures and many individual communities of religious believers. Their alternative is that you are not free to believe what you want and they often state that you cannot change religion without being punished (often including the death penalty): this is bemoaned as one of the most dangerous elements of religion54 and "the denial of religious freedoms is inevitably intertwined with the denial of other freedoms"55 and the solution is, everywhere, to allow religious freedom and the freedom of belief.

For more, see:

Once-upon-a-time, extremist Wahhabi preachers would go to Qatar if they were unwelcome in Saudi Arabia, "and Osama bin Laden is said to have stopped by"45. On paper, leaving Islam is punishable by death (although this hasn't been actually put into practice since 1971)13 . Culturally, it is surprisingly liberal for matters not related to family and religion. Although this is partially because the vast majority of people there are not local, but also, because the state permits it.

With the dawn of a new millennium Qatar has entered a different league. [There are] nightclubs on hotel rooftops [...], bars advertise happy hours on its beaches and a state-owned distribution centre supplies not just liqour but pork. [...] Women drive and there are no religious police forcing businesses to shut during prayer times.

The Economist (2016)56

But there is definite unhappiness amongst Qataris about the direction that their country has taken. Traditionally, Islamic law is enforced on all people by the state. But Qatar has now become half-free. One confused cleric in an Islamic Center complains that "we're not an Islamic state" and so says that Muslims like him are oppressed45 - precisely because of the absence of restrictive enforcements. Native Qataris are still banned from bars and liquor stores, and Christian churches cannot display crucifixes and instead have signs that say "Religious Centre"45. So the Cleric has it wrong. Qatar is still a theocracy, and Qataris are still oppressed, by their own religious doctrine. His true complaint is that Islam isn't enforced strictly enough on those who do not want it - Qataris sneak out of their national dress and buy alcohol secretly45, en masse, and he feels powerless to stop them - good!

To end oppression, the state should embrace a more honest, secular outlook, where all are free to adhere to religious restrictions in accordance with their beliefs - the cleric, like all in Qatar, are free to refrain from alcohol in accordance with the Quran. But they should also be free to buy it, when they wish.