Maturing Qatar Shines Brightly in Mideast
If you have ever heard of Qatar, you more than likely have also heard a fair amount of praise heaped upon this small country and the visionary people that populate it. After having lived and studied here in Qatar for the past three years, I can attest that Qatar is completely worthy of such praise.
When compared to most other countries in the Middle East, Qatar is leaps and bounds ahead — not just in terms of development, but also in terms of civic potential. Even with its already high standards, this country is continually striving to improve.
If its citizens persevere and continue to make such progressive advances in the future, Qatar will soon become a beacon of light not only to its neighbors in the region, but to the world at large.
In my eyes, Qatar has chosen a decidedly mature approach to the future. Since the establishment of two major U.S. military installations just outside of Doha in 2002, Qatari Armed Forces have become much more oriented toward a role that deals almost entirely with border control, internal security and the occasional search and rescue mission rather than any form of conventional combat.
Qatar has also indicated that it plans on further developing its capabilities in hopes of eventually providing troops for international peacekeeping and humanitarian missions.
This is notable for two reasons: First, it shows Qatar’s maturity and willingness to be a proactive part of the global community. Second, the adoption of this new military posture is significantly cheaper, a fact which allows the Qatari government to allocate expenditures to education and other social programs.
Obviously, Georgetown University is playing a huge part in this effort by creating its new campus in Education City. These have been some of the most prudent — as well as bold — decisions made by any nation in the region for some time.
This is not to say that Qatar is without its share of troubles. On the contrary, Qatar has some very glaring problems that will need to be addressed fully before it can ever be a truly great country. Many people in the Middle East associate modernity and progress with moral decay.
The two most obvious examples of this point of view are Manama and Dubai. These cities are arguably the most developed and lucrative urban centers in the region. Both cities have numerous night clubs that serve alcohol, and in many of them prostitutes can be seen openly seeking clientele.
Remarkably enough, however, Qatar has managed to embrace a great deal of modernity while ensuring that a minimal amount of these compromises have occurred.
Very few establishments in Qatar are even authorized to dispense alcohol. Obviously these places have a vested interest in ensuring that their atmosphere remains reputable and that debauchery remains minimal.
Are there places in Qatar where seedy behavior occurs? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. The revealing article printed in the Hoya last month (“Culture a Delicate Balancing Act in Doha,” THE HOYA, March 21, 2006, A1) testifies to that.
Ironically enough, this article was as shocking to most SFS-Q students as it was to folks on Georgetown’s main campus. By and large, students here at SFS-Q are almost completely ignorant of the very existence of these bars and nightclubs, let alone what goes on inside them.
I was actually relieved that the article was so forthright about these after-hours hangouts. Some of these establishments are pretty seedy, and exposing what goes on behind their doors is an important step toward their eradication.
The few sex-workers in Qatar are often brought here illegally, and one can only imagine how terrible their lives must be.
It is equally important to note that Qatar is taking some encouraging steps toward dealing with this problem. Recently, several Chinese sex-workers were arrested, and all of them were either deported or imprisoned. What makes the arrests interesting is the fact that an account of the arrests was actually published in the local newspapers.
This disclosure is a stark contrast to what you might expect in any other country in the region, which in my opinion indicates that Qatari authorities are genuinely committed to solving problems before they become a real issue — even if doing so comes at the expense of their public image.
In closing, let me say that I genuinely believe SFS-Q has been an incredible success thus far, and that it has a very promising future. I also would like to remind everyone that we should be keen to realize the crucial role that Georgetown University will play in the development of Qatar’s citizens.
With this in mind, I beseech Hoyas everywhere to take an active interest in the development of Qatar and to vigorously support any future effort by members of SFS-Q to improve the lot of those who are being marginalized in the process.