Maryam Ali AlHajry has been a literal revolutionary since childhood. Since the age of 12 years, she questioned many of the norms in her house, which she believed were against her understanding and logic. For example, she felt very uncomfortable about the presence of several servants in her house who were considered to be different from her family members. She protested with her family members and asked them why don’t they have a day off. Eventually, she was instrumental in allowing the servants a weekly off. It was because of such situations and her reaction to them that Maryam realized her anger was fully justified.
Puberty created a lot of confusion for Maryam, because prior to it she spent her entire childhood with her father at the Majlis or playing football with the boys. However, after hitting puberty, she was repeatedly made conscious of having become a woman and was disallowed from playing with boys and going to the Majlis. The realization dawned on her that after becoming a woman she had been put into a literal prison. Her mother explained to her that she could not go out on her own because of the risks that existed for women in the outside world. However, Maryam was highly upset and felt that instead of being prevented from going outside, efforts should be made to alter the outside world so that it does not pose risks for women. Growing up she realized that the public sphere had been molded in order to meet the expectations of males only.
Maryam majored in International Affairs, because she wanted to understand the world around her; especially after the Arab Spring hit the region in 2011. She started realizing that the world was all about power relations; starting from the positionally of a person; their class, gender, race and religion, especially in post-colonial societies. Much of her work focused on intersectionality in third world feminisms; with a critique of hegemonic western feminists, in hopes of pushing towards creating a more autonomous -geographically, culturally, and historically- grounded feminist concerns, strategies, and discourse.
It was because of such patterns in society that she decided to study and practice feminism, which was taught through the works of Dr. Hatoon Al-Fassi, the renowned human rights activist. Maryam used to initially believe that feminism was not accepted in Islam, but she understood that Islamic feminism introduced by Dr. Al-Fassi was tenable in Islam, provided the given text was based on the right context. She understood from Dr. Al-Fassi that something is forbidden in Islam because there is a flaw in it that makes it untenable in Islam. If the flaw can be removed, the objection in Islam is also eliminated. In view of such reasoning, Maryam started finding herself in intersectional feminism.
In 2016, when Maryam was in her senior year, she partnered with Amna AlMarri, a Law student, in writing an article named “Does the Qatari woman face injustice”. A Saudi feminist blog published the article and highlighted its four main points in the context of issues faced by Qatari women. The issues pertained to Qatari mothers not being able to pass their nationality to their non-Qatari children; women abuse; women’s political engagement; and discrimination against women in the distribution of land. In fact, while writing the article, Maryam focused on relating her arguments with the philosophy of Michel Foucault, according to which discourse should not be considered to be only a spoken action but a collection of actions. She held that the government was responsible for the plight of women in Qatar, because it introduced laws and forced Qatari societies to accept and comply with them. She categorically asserted in the article that Qatari society is still a patriarchal because of laws introduced by the government, in addition to the monopolization of knowledge production by the government: starting with what’s being taught in school curriculums, that reinforce stereotypes about gender roles, + media platforms and the freedom to create independent organizations .
A massive backlash occurred against Maryam and Amna after publication of the article because the government as well as society was unwilling to accept the concept of feminism. Nevertheless, the article was the most widely read on the blog. When Dr. Hatoon Al-Fassi supported the article through tweets, most Qataries claimed that the two girls were brainwashed by her. This was despite the fact that Dr. Hatoon Al-Fassi and Maryam disagreed on several aspects. A move was made through a hashtag to fire Dr. Al-Fassi from Qatar University. Maryam and Amna tried their best to defend Dr. Al-Fassi, but instead got their own reputation tarnished.
However, the struggles that Maryam and Amna went through did bring positive results in 2016. They are both happy that Qatari females can now proudly assert their feminism and advocate for their rights. Maryam aspires to establish a feminist organization but cannot do so because it is illegal; because there's no civil society in Qatar, organizations are regulated only through the government. She regained her reputation after she made a speech during Qatar Univeristy’s graduation ceremony in 2017, in which she altered the misconceptions that people held about her.
Maryam is an active member of the Qatar Youth Opposed to Normalization with Israel Organization, which she joined in 2016. She believes that the occupation of Palestine is amongst the biggest crisis situation faced in the Arab world, because she believes that no Arab women can be free, until the women of Palestine are no longer under the Zionist occupation, and the struggle towards creating a just society is a collective struggle.
Piece of advice from Maryam:
“My advice is to never take advice. As Chomsky says: “Young people that are asking that question, “can you give us advice about what I should do?” and it’s a question which reveals a pathology in the society. The idea that you should ask somebody who is upon high for some reason to tell you what to do. That’s not the way it works. You’ve got to find out for yourself what to do.””