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Qatar…From Afar: Uncomfortable Questions IV

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The way the administrators conducted themselves from when the formal complaint was lodged on April 17 to when I flew home on May 13, there are irregularities after irregularities. Throughout my time in jail and since, I have had some very important and uncomfortable questions swirling in my head about them.

One of those important questions has always been this:

Did the QA administrators know that I would be jailed? If so when?

The question was partly addressed in the second post in the uncomfortable questions series.

In the third post in this sub-series, writing about my exchanges with them and their lack of support holed up in the interrogation room on May 1, I raised the question again.

I have come to believe that the administrators knew of the impending felony charges against me and knew it from the beginning.

But, once again, to reiterate something I have said in the past, I don’t necessarily know the answers to these questions I raise. I give educated guesses for answers and explanations.

To begin with, the administrators conducted the activities of the first few days and made their decisions really quickly, with little information being shared with anyone else.

It all started with even the parent not wasting much time filing the formal complaint with the school, at which time he most likely informed the administrators of his intention to file felony charges as well. The knowledge that I would be entangled with the legal system may have driven the administrators to act as unceremoniously and swiftly as they did. When left with a choice between having a teacher in jail or having an ex-teacher in jail, they chose the latter.

My exchange with the students took place on Tuesday, April 16. The afternoon of the very next day, I met with the administrators for the first time, the parent having filed the complaint either the evening before or earlier that day. By then, the administrators had already met with the three students.

The following morning, I had a follow-up meeting with them after submitting my incident report. Sunday, the following week day, I was dismissed. (Weekend in Qatar is Friday and Saturday.)

But, the school waited a full week, until the week starting April 28, before informing others — just three colleagues at that, and individually — about the incident, the complaint and the school’s decision. By the time the rest of the members of the community were officially informed, on May 5, another week later, I had already been in jail for five days!

Far from being transparent, the school did not even invoke the Crisis Protocol procedure though the case should have qualified as a crisis.

The decision to NOT follow Crisis Protocol may have been that of QF and/or QA administrators, but most likely so as not to further “complicate” and prolong the process — and risk drawing attention of others including colleagues at the school.

All of that explains QA’s statement to Doha News.

QA statment to Doha News May 8 2013
QA statement to Doha News which appeared in the article published on Wednesday, May 8.

QA was able to qualify their statement with, “Since leaving our employment” precisely because of what they had done. They had already fired me, they had canceled my Residence Permit, my health insurance and my visa by the time I was incarcerated.

They had however held on to my passport, which, strictly speaking, is illegal, but who is asking?! Most employers in Qatar do that as a matter of course. QA didn’t; they had just made an exception with mine…for a reason.

There were a number of other irregularities with events that transpired from when I was lead into a private cell the afternoon of May 1 to when I flew home the afternoon of May 13.

The HSSE and Qatar Foundation (QF) legal department representatives, for instance, contrary to promises by the Director and PC, another administrator, didn’t show up anywhere at any time — not at the police station on May 1, not at Al Rayyan jail, not at the Public Prosecution office (where I went twice) and not at the court!

When I was in jail, I had asked myself why I may have been given such blatantly false assurances but hadn’t been able to find an explanation. Now however, I think I know the answer.

They had fed me those assurances probably just to tell me something or possibly to give me false hope, just as they did with the passport. All evidence indicate that they had next to no intention of doing anything or helping me in any way because either they had decided they didn’t need to do anything or they believed they weren’t in a position to be able to do anything, that their hands had been tied.

Consistent with that, the administrators disseminated another patently false information the afternoon I was thrown in jailed. The administrators had told some colleagues that the police released  me after the interrogation and that I was in my apartment. A friend had even gone by the apartment to confirm! But of course, he didn’t find me there!

What’s more, they actively tried to prevent others from doing anything by issuing a gag order on Sunday, May 5, at a whole school meeting. It’s possible that they were just following instructions from QF.

gag order & lack of communication
Reference to the gag order in a comment on an International School Review blog about the incident. “[T]here’s a complete gag order on staff[.] […] [T]he administration has not said word one on the matter from the very beginning — no acknowledgement, no communications, no transparency whatsoever.”
That same afternoon, friends, visiting me in jail, tells me how they were pressuring the administrators in private to take some action. (A number of concerned colleagues had formed a pressure group.)

In keeping with the gag order, the administrators had even advised the colleagues in the pressure-group to let them work the back channels and to keep everything under wraps. Their concern had been that going public and making too much noise might cause the Qatari authorities to “lose face” and thereby reduce the chances of getting me out.

The administrators had also assured them that they were doing everything they could. Whatever “everything” involved, it did not include pressuring the parent to drop the charges, as per a colleague’s SMS I received on the day I flew home.

out of parents hands-edited
SMS: “[W]e were told it was out of the parents hands[.]”
Nor did it include contacting me or communicating with me in any way. But, of course, that makes perfect sense in light of the statement provided to Doha News.

But, luckily for me, realising that the school and QF were not doing enough, at great risk to himself and his job, a friend secretly shared my story with the Doha News journalist Shabina Khatri, defying the gag order. (That, of course, changed everything!)

The article in the paper may have confused and completely thrown off guard those “managing” the issue, especially when the journalist contacted QF and QA for statements. The article, in addition to reproducing the QA statement, reports that, when asked for a statement, the Principal referred the newspaper to QF, which, Doha News reports, in turn, as saying, “a statement is forthcoming.” But then QA ends up issuing the statement.

Furthermore, the afternoon I was released, the Principal tells me to thank the Vice-principal for getting the parent to drop the charges. So somehow, something that had been out of the parent’s hands, the vice-principal was able to wring out of him?!

Or, was that another case of them being completely thrown off at the turn of events, compelling them to back-peddle? (The charges, a friend later confirmed, is still pending.)

There’s more to all that but suffice it to say that the school most likely knew from the get go about my impending incarceration. Armed with that knowledge, they hastily fired me and severed all ties to wash their hands of me.

However, once again, to reiterate — because of its importance — something I mentioned earlier: my conjectures are based on information I have — information I have gotten from friends, colleagues and the public domain.

I am still missing some information which I probably will never get my hands on.

…Unless someone with those information decides to share their side of the story.

 

References:

Qatar Academy teachers fret as former colleague jailed over alleged insults to Islam. The first article about the ordeal published in Doha News on Wednesday, May 8.

Opinion: How illegal is passport confiscation in Qatar?

‘Keeping employees’ passports in custody is violation of Qatar law’

86 percent of employee passports still retained by employers

Qatar Academy Teacher Jailed Over Alleged Insults to Islam

 

 

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