A Mexican woman who accused a Colombian man of sexually assaulting her while she was living and working in Qatar instead faces charges of engaging in an extramarital relationship, a crime that can be punished in the Middle Eastern country by up to seven years imprisonment and 100 lashes.
Paola Schietekat Sedas was working in Doha as a behavioral economist for the committee responsible for organizing the 2022 FIFA World Cup when a man she met through the local Latin American community entered her apartment while she was sleeping and allegedly assaulted her.
In a personal account of the June 2021 assault that was published on the Julio Astillero news website earlier this month under the heading “A world that seems to hate women,” Schietekat said that the perpetrator was a man she considered a friend.
She revealed that she was raped and beaten at the age of 16 by her first boyfriend, and said that she decided to report the assault in her Doha apartment in 2021 so that the perpetrator – unlike her previous aggressor whom she didn’t report – would face consequences for his actions.
With her body bruised, and armed with a medical report detailing her injuries, Schietekat, accompanied by the Mexican consul in Qatar, went to the police the next day and reported the attack using her limited Arabic ability.
At 9 p.m. that night, Schietekat said she was contacted by police and asked to urgently return to the police station.
“Upon arriving at the station, the police placed my aggressor before me,” she wrote. Schietekat said she then faced a three-hour interrogation and was asked to undergo a virginity test.
“For some reason, I had become the accused,” she wrote.
“When I asked why they were demanding that I give them my cell phone, they assured me there weren’t charges against me, that they just wanted to check that there wasn’t a romantic relationship between us because the aggressor defended himself against the complaint saying that I was his girlfriend,” Schietekat wrote.
“In Qatar, having an extramarital affair is punished with up to seven years in jail, and in some cases, the sentence includes 100 lashes. From one moment to the next, my complaint didn’t matter anymore. The police referred the case to the public prosecutor, the only place I had a translator. Everything revolved around the extramarital relationship.”
The 28-year-old woman said that the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the World Cup organizing committee she was working for, subsequently helped her leave the country.
“… I had never breathed with so much relief when they stamped my passport. In Mexico, the adrenaline stopped, and a slower, although equally complex and painful process started,” Schietekat wrote.
She said her case was referred to a Qatari criminal court, while her aggressor was absolved due to a supposed lack of evidence that he had entered her apartment and assaulted her.
“The charges for having a relationship outside of marriage remain current, stopping me from returning to Qatar and forcing me to pay even more for legal representation. The solution my lawyer and the legal representative of my aggressor gave me was relatively simple: marry him. To close the case the State of Qatar opened against me I only had to marry my aggressor,” Schietekat wrote.
She remains in Mexico City and will be sentenced in absentia on March 6. Schietekat met with Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard last Friday and the latter announced on Twitter that the Foreign Ministry’s legal advisor – “our best lawyer” – will take charge of her defense and ensure all her rights as a Mexican citizen are respected.
Schietekat said she was happy with the reception she got from Ebrard and his team but asserted that her case should never have reached the foreign minister.
“We deserve consular protection protocols that work so that we never leave our compatriots unprotected,” she wrote on Twitter.
In her published personal account, Schietekat was scathing of Mexican diplomatic staff in Qatar, writing that they weren’t prepared to act in her defense, none of them spoke any Arabic and they “didn’t have the slightest knowledge of local laws.”
She criticized the Mexican consul, Luis Ancona, for the advice he gave her – to pursue her complaint unreservedly – “without knowledge of Qatari law and without even recommending [that I] seek legal advice first.”
“… My mom and I felt completely abandoned by an embassy whose consul responded ‘shut the door well’ in the face of threats from the aggressor,” Schietekat wrote.
“… Despite the existence of a consular care protocol for people who are victims of gender violence … it wasn’t followed,” she said.
“How will this same embassy be useful to thousands of Mexicans who will attend the World Cup in a country where relationships outside of marriage and homosexuality are punished?” Schietekat asked.
“How will this embassy be of any use to thousands of Mexicans who don’t speak Arabic and don’t know Qatari laws?”