Student Voice Article 1: The Fight for Human Rights – Qatar Blockade


Maryam Al Sada

Whether you follow the news or not,  you must have noticed Qatar being in the headlines. From hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the world’s most popular sports event (YES football fever is coming to Qatar!), to having one of the world’s highest GDP per capita. However, Qatar has lately been in the news due to being subjected to an unexpected saddening massive human rights violations, answering how and why is both simple and complicated. These violations are a reminder that even when living in a prosperous country where our rights are protected and our needs are answered, we can wake up to a CHANGED world we never imagined. 

To explain things better we must first explain another change, a good change, one that brought us Human Rights. 

HUMAN RIGHTS? WHAT ARE THOSE?

Just last year, the United Nations celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR),  a historical milestone document for human rights. Since then, the world has steadily been improving on protecting those rights, however, the last 12 years have shown a decline in global freedoms, and a rise in human rights violations. Around the world, where there are Human Rights Violation, there are Human Rights Warriors fighting!

THE BLOCKADE-WHAT WAS IT?

This decline was experienced first hand by citizens and residents of Qatar when the blockade against Qatar started on June 5th, 2017. This date will forever be remembered by Qataris as the day of the great betrayal. Qataris were the victims of  15 human rights violations according to the UDHR. These violations were illegally practiced by the blockading countries of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt. Violations included family separations, violations to the right to perform religious services,  racial discrimination, arbitrary detention and, of course, blocked access to education. These violations have affected mixed families the most. Families are extremely important for us, and the GCC has a unique structure with most families having close relatives who are citizens of neighboring countries, these include cousins, uncles, aunts but most importantly siblings and parents. A fog of ever-changing procedures (cough couch..excuses..cough cough) prevented Qataris from being able to even enter Saudi, Bahrain, UAE, and Egypt. This has resulted in busted businesses, broken family ties, and over 1,000 students being sent back to Qatar, in some cases, days before the completion of their education with nothing to show for years of study. The blockade abruptly stopped any trade across the border, leaving animals to starve at borders. Many relatives were unable to attend the funerals of their loved ones and were prevented from saying a final farewell to sick relatives including siblings and parents. Amnesty International has stated that thousands of people have been negatively affected by the arbitrary sanctions which have split families, and made pilgrimages to Islamic holy sites in Saudi Arabia extremely difficult.

EDUCATION NO LONGER A RIGHT?

The blockading countries showed no regard towards the 26th article of the UDHR, which clearly states “higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit”, when they banned students from the completion of their education based on NATIONALITY! Jawaher Al Meer, a Qatari student studying at Sorbonne University in Abu Dhabi, was visiting her family during a school break when the blockade started. She was totally shocked when she was informed, by an abrupt email, that she will not be able to complete her studies at the university or even be allowed to collect her belongings. Such discrimination, due to nationality, by a prestigious university is a breach of Human Rights that in no way should be acceptable. 

POWER TO THE PEOPLE

The blockade can be considered a blessing in disguise as it has brought the issue of human rights to the forefront. Our duty as today’s youth is to be aware and educated about these rights and what they entail, and consciously support their protection for everyone.  We must not be afraid or threatened by judgment or whatever society’s response would be. We need to ask ourselves, what role can we play in upholding these rights? What can we do when we see any of these rights violated? We may not be able to change the world but we can play a role in improving one person’s life and that is what we should focus on. 

#YOUTHPOWER

First and foremost we need to understand and give weight to the phrase “Youth are the Future”. This overused phrase does not only mean we are the next generation but it advocates for the youth to shape a better, safer, and more prosperous present and future for them and for generations after them. We, the YOUTH must acknowledge the power we possess through social media and try and use it to the best of our abilities. Social media gives individuals voices and power. Information is no longer just controlled by government corporations and official media outlets; every person with access to social media can create change. The power of media is proven constantly when dictators target the destruction of media first to make the world unaware of what’s truly happening. We are at a critical stage in human history in which our survival and the survival of the planet is no longer taken for granted. It is upon our generation to make sure that we take the matter into our own hands and make the changes necessary for our survival. Youth all around the globe are starting to step up where adults have been dragging their feet and ensuring that the needed change is happening. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has,” said author and anthropologist Margaret Mead.

June 5th should not only be considered the day of Qatar’s blockade, we should also make it the day that woke Qataris up and made us more conscious of our human rights and of those less fortunate. Let us make it the day that made us human rights warriors, fighting to protect human rights across the globe.

Public Relations Officer for THIMUN Qatar announced

Youth Voice is the centre of the THIMUN philosophy which works to create educational programs by high school students, for high school students.

In an environment that has seen some serious growth in embedding Youth Voice. UN Secretary General António Guterres led a high level meeting on the 24th September 2018 to launch Youth 2030, building on the Security Council resolutions (2250) and (2419), which has agreed upon the role of youth in achieving Peace, Security and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Globally, youth aged 15-24 represent almost 20% of the population, and whilst they are still in school, youth have spearheaded revolutions, overturned governments. led protests and created entire music careers for singers such as Cardi B.

This series of publications will represent Youth Voice on Youth Issues and we are proud to introduce you to our head of Public Relations, Maryam Al Sada, and her deputy Taraf Jaro. Maryam and Taraf will feature monthly issues and articles that represent youth issues from around the world. Maryam is a high school senior at Vision International School, and is also serving as a conference coordinator at the Qatar Leadership Conference 17-19 October 2019. Taraf Jaro is a high school senior at the American School of Doha. We hope you enjoy this article introducing them to you all!

Maryam Al Sada, Vision International School
Taraf Jaro, American School of Doha

Tell us about your childhood- what was your first experience with leadership and what did you think about how you performed?

Maryam: When I was a young girl, my teachers told me I had a leadership personality. I didn’t believe them at first, but I started to see myself taking the lead in class, helping my classmates forward and asking the tough questions, acting on behalf of my peers in class. 

Taraf: I took on my first leadership experience in the third grade for a club at my elementary school called Junior G.E.M.S. (girls excelling in math and science). It was founded by a teacher at my school who recognized the lack of female representation within STEM careers and wanted to empower young girls interested in science and math to embrace that passion and turn it into opportunity and success.

How did you first hear of MUN?

Maryam: Like most of us, I heard of MUN through my school

Taraf: When I was in middle school, a group of high school students spoke about MUN during an assembly to introduce the Middle School MUN club at ASD. They described it as ‘a chance to debate about global issues and come up with our own solutions on them’, which intrigued me and inspired me to attend the first meeting. As a grade 8 student, MUN was one of the only ways I felt I could be educated on current events around the world and project my voice to make an impact even at a young age. This still resonates with me today, and is one of the main reasons I’ve been invested in MUN for 5 years.

If you could speak to yourself aged 11, what advice would you give yourself?

Maryam: Stop being stubborn! I had perseverance in the wrong places, I didn’t like hearing no, and I wanted to prove them wrong. As I matured I realised that not all cases can be treated the same way. 

Taraf: I would tell myself to keep up with my Arabic and to believe that you will one day be a doctor!

Where were you last happiest?

Maryam: Every day I find happiness, each day brings me happiness. We celebrated our seniors graduating from our school, which was so enjoyable and fun. 

Taraf: I’m happiest when I’m with my family, surrounded by the people I love is what brings me the most joy out of anything.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Maryam: I draw inspiration from my greatest role models, my parents. They are so patient, helpful and kind, and they push me to do my best. I also draw inspiration from H.E. Ms Lolwa Al Khater, official spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. her education, her perseverance and her experiences as a Qatari woman really inspire me. 

Taraf: My parents—they have the strongest work ethic and dedication that I very proud to look up to. When my brother and I were aged 2 and 3 respectively, they travelled to the United States to complete their postgraduate degrees. They show the highest level of determination in everything they do that has always pushed me to go the extra mile in everything I do and never settle for less. Watching my parents constantly put in effort for our family so that my brother and I can be successful is what drives me every day to excel and make them proud.

Which famous living person would you love to have dinner with and why? 

Maryam: H.H. Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani- he is a real inspiration for the Qatari people. 

Taraf: Mae Jemison— a physician, engineer, and the first African American woman to travel to space. Given her background and experience, I would love to know how she was able to overcome challenges such as societal stereotypes to get to the STEM-heavy career she leads

Who are you looking forward to interviewing and why?

Maryam: I would love to interview people in the medical field, since our next THIMUN Qatar conference is focused on SDG Good Health and Well Being. 

Taraf: I’m excited to interview politicians working directly in fields relating to, for example, the Palestinian crisis. Getting a first hand account on current events and viewing them from new and unseen perspectives is one of the things I’m looking forward to the most from this experience.

How do you feel the press in Qatar represents student voice?

Maryam: I think that Qatar’s media represents the youth really well! We need more of a media platform to tackle the issues of the youth. 

Taraf: Media across the world, until recent years, has been created by and oriented towards adults. However alongside new innovations in Qatar, I believe student and youth representation in the media and press has escalated greatly in recent years. Social media has played a big role in this growth by catalysing it to reach a greater audience, and I speak for all students when I say I greatly appreciate how media outlets such as AlJazeera and Qatar Foundation have been highlighting youth efforts and initiatives aimed towards creating change

What do you wish you could highlight to all of the THIMUN Qatar family?

Maryam: Many people view diplomacy as boring and formal, but I think of diplomacy as an art! You have to think of how your words impact the issue you are discussing.

Taraf: Throughout our time with THIMUN Qatar we’ve been blessed with all the resources and exposure necessary to establish global mindedness and create change. Therefore what determines the extent of our impact is how well we execute our initiatives and the amount of effort we put forth in doing so. As part of the THIMUN community, we all know the world’s most prominent issues and have come up with our own solutions to resolve them, but what steps are you taking towards an impact to eradicate these issues?

What’s the biggest misconception there is about being an Arab girl?

Maryam: That we shouldn’t be underestimated! We should pursue our passions, because if we work with our passions we will be offering a priceless service to our community. 

Taraf: One common misconception about girls and women in the Arab world is that we have very little choice in our lives; that everything is decided for us by our parents and family as a result of certain beliefs and values and we get almost no say in their course of action. This may have been partially true for prior generations and unfortunately is still a reality for many girls around the world, but we have more independence now more than ever. There are female Arab doctors, lawyers, politicians, engineers, etc. all around the world, and we’re constantly building up our representation on our own despite the barriers.

Describe yourself in three words.

Maryam: Persistent. Passionate. A Leader

Taraf: Analytical, meticulous, and conceptual