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Doha News: Introducing the Doha Fund, an initiative for collective giving -
Doha News has partnered with SocialFund.org to launch a new charity initiative: The Doha Fund.
The aim of the project is to bring together the community - Qataris and expatriates alike - for charitable giving.
Like popular crowd-funding sites Kickstarter and Indiegogo,…
Sign up for this!
The tremors of a major earthquake that struck Iran have been felt across the subcontinent and the Gulf, including in Qatar, this afternoon.
According to the US Geological Survey, the earthquake was of 7.8 magnitude, which struck in Khash, Iran before 2pm Doha local time. This is the second earthquake to hit Iran in a week. Here’s the latest:
UPDATE | 3:45pm
Most office employees have been given the all-clear to return back inside high-rise buildings, witnesses have told Doha News. The evacuations, though, have resulted in increased traffic around the Dafna area.
In Iran, officials are counting the deaths from today’s earthquake. Although there are 40 confirmed deaths already, officials have said they expect casualties to be in the hundreds, Reuters reports.
UPDATE | 2:50pm
The Ministry of Interior has weighed in on the earthquake, saying there are no reports of damages from the tremors felt in Qatar yet.
Authorities are following impact of tremors felt after earthquake in Iran. We assure all there are no casualties or damages in Qatar.— MOI, Qatar (@MOI_QatarEn)
Meanwhile, some nurseries in Qatar have also been evacuated as a safety precaution.
Last Tuesday, many residents of Doha were evacuated from homes and office buildings after a magnitude 6.3 earthquake hit southern Iran.
Now, residents are saying the tremors were stronger than before, with more people reporting feeling their homes and office buildings shaking.
Some of the affected areas include Landmark Mall, Al Sadd, Education City and Katara. A number of towers and buildings across the city are again being evacuated as a safety precaution, but there are no reports out yet of any injuries or damages.
Many people say they are still standing outside waiting for the all-clear.
Following last week’s earthquake, the GCC called on the UN to send inspectors to Iran’s Bushehr plant amid fears that the earthquake compromised the safety of the nuclear complex.
This latest, larger earthquake has renewed concerns about Iran’s nuclear plants, with residents already asking what kind of an impact the earthquake will have on them. Notably, today’s quake was not near the same nuclear plant.
Here’s the reaction we’ve been getting:
Doha News: Qatari activists held for a week over 'threatening' letter to French embassy -
Two local activists have been detained by Qatari authorities for a week now, apparently over a threatening letter submitted to the French embassy protesting the country’s intervention in Mali, but are reportedly out of solitary confinement.
According to Amnesty International and representatives of the men, Muhammad Issa al-Baker and Mansour bin Rashed al-Matroushi were kept in solitary confinement for five days after being arrested by plain-clothes security officers on March 22.
The international rights organization issued an update on the two last night, saying they now have improved conditions - including regular meals and communication with the outside world - but remain without charge and have yet to see an arrest warrant.
A representative speaking on behalf of the two men said both were questioned over the phone by authorities prior to their arrest, but were never served with a formal police summons. Authorities, however, have told Amnesty that arrest warrants were issued.
While in detention for the last week, Al-Baker and al-Matroushi have been re-questioned about the letter - dated March 3 - which they submitted to the French Embassy in Qatar. The two delivered the letter on behalf of some 70 local activists angered by France’s moves to intervene in the Western African country of Mali. No signatures were left on the document.
The French Embassy has so far declined to comment on the letter publicly, but Amnesty reports that the diplomatic mission contacted Qatari authorities about it on March 7.
The letter has since circulated on social media, and both authorities and local commentators have said the letter (translated from Arabic into English and embedded below) carried a clear threat to the embassy and France.
In particular, this line has drawn criticism: “We demand that you immediately cease your military campaign in Mali or else you would be exposing yourselves to the wrath of people who love death as much as you love life.”
Sultan al-Khalaifi, who works with the two men as part of the Genevea-registered Adel Group for Human Rights, told Doha News that neither the protest letter, nor an earlier request to hold a peaceful demonstration, violated any laws in Qatar or incited hatred or violence.
“The letter we sent to the French Embassy carried no threat. It was advice,” he said in Arabic, adding that the group respected the Ministry of Interior’s decision to deny permission to hold a protest in front of the embassy.
“When we said that if France did not stop its military intervention in Mali, it would encounter people who value death as much as they value life, we meant to inform them that there were people who might act aggressively against them because they were angered by France meddling in their affairs.
If I warn someone not to go to some street because he might be attacked, does that mean that I am threatening him?!”
Al-Khalaifi, who was himself detained by authorities for a month without charge in 2011, said the purpose of his colleagues’ arrest was to intimidate. Referring to the dozens of people who worked on the letter, he added:
“Let the security police arrest all of us. Let them arrest me first if they care so much for the French interests and not free Qatari citizens.”
…”It is very ironic and sad that Paris itself witnessed protests against the French military intervention in Mali, but here in Qatar, the home country of A Jazeera and supposed democracy, two men are detained because of letter.”
Here’s our translation of the letter, plus the original Arabic document shared with us by Amnesty International:
A lawyer speaking to Al Karama, a Swiss-based human rights organization that al-Khalaifi was previously associated with, said the two men’s case has now been referred to Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee.
It remains unclear when precisely al-Baker and al-Matroushi will be released or charged.
Credit: Photo via Al Karama
Doha News: Al Jazeera continuing Western expansion with UK and French plans -
Qatar-based Al Jazeera Media Network, which is hard at work preparing to launch its new America channel this year, has announced plans to offer locally-tailored news programmes in the UK, as well as the intention of launching a French station.
The network’s Director General Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al-Thani told Agence France Press earlier in the week that the United Kingdom-branded offering would be called Al Jazeera UK, and added that studies on a French-language channel are in “advanced stages.”
A spokesperson for the company confirmed the move to Doha News, saying that Al Jazeera UK will consist of five hours of locally-developed daily programming, which would slot into primetime hours on Al Jazeera English.
Al Jazeera is expected to move into London’s Qatar-owned Shard skyscraper, and those offices would be the likely home of AJ UK.
In contrast, Al Jazeera French is planned to be a full-on channel with the aim of “building bridges with other cultures and peoples” according to Al-Thani, although where it would be located and details of the programming are still under development.
Al Jazeera Turk, which has been in development since at least early 2011, is also expected to go on air either by end of this year or early next year, according to the AJN spokesperson. Some Turkish reports have attributed delays in that channel’s launch to disagreements between Al Jazeera and Turkey.
The network did launch a channel headquartered in Sarajevo, Bosnia in 2011 called Al Jazeera Balkans.
Efforts to develop channels outside Europe and America have stalled though. Plans for an Africa-based Al Jazeera Kiswahili channel have been put on hold and the network has no immediate intention of launching an Urdu-language station, the spokesman confirmed.
Credit: Photo by Osama Saeed
Dusty day in Doha, by Omar Chatriwala.
Captured last week from Katara’s rooftops.
Anonymous asked: Dear Omar, Please could you send me your email address for Doha News. I work for PR agency and would like to keep you updated Kind Regards Marianna
You didn’t use a Tumblr account, or share your email with me, so I can’t really get in touch with you. But in the off-chance that you just refresh the page, you can reach me on email@example.com.
The flag is flying at half-mast at the Venezuelan embassy in Doha today after the country’s long-time president Hugo Chavez died last night.
Venezuela will have seven days of mourning to commemorate its late leader.
On its website, the embassy, which is located in Dafna, says:
With our deepest grief, the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the State of Qatar announces the opening of a Condolences Book due to the sad demise of Commander HUGO CHÁVEZ FRÍAS, President of Venezuela and one of the fundamental leaders of Latin America.
The Book of Condolences will be open from today, Wednesday, March 6, from 2:00 PM until 5:00 PM and on next Thursday and Sunday from 10:00 AM until 4:00 PM.
RIP Hugo Chavez.
Doha News: Qatar PM defends record in 'Arab Spring' countries during Kerry visit -
Amid growing discontent with Qatar’s role in certain revolutions across the Arab world, the country’s prime minister has rejected claims of partisanship in Syria, Egypt and Libya.
Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, who serves as both Qatar’s prime minister and foreign minister, defended the country’s actions during a press conference tonight with visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry.
“We are supporting the moderates [in Syria],” the prime minister said in response to questions about Qatar’s role there.
“The longer the crisis, we will find [more] radical groups taking part, [but] we don’t wish for these radical parties to win,” he said.
Refuting claims across the Middle East that Qatar has been supporting hardline Islamist parties in the various Arab uprisings, including the Muslim Brotherhood, he said:
“It is believed that we are supporting a particular group in Egypt. However it is the right of the people themselves, whether it is Egyptians or Libyans, who or which group [is leading them].
From that time, it was falsely propagated that Qatar was supporting one group or another…”
The prime minister did not clarify what role Qatar is currently playing in providing arms to the Syrian opposition.
Kerry, who recently replaced Hillary Clinton as the United States’ most senior diplomat and has been touring Middle East countries, said only that “we are aware of what people are doing” in regards to arms.
But in an interview with Fox News earlier today, he confirmed that the US has been training opposition forces offsite.
During tonight’s press conference, Kerry added:
“In terms of the fundamental balance of battlefield tactics and of effort, I think it’s pretty clear that the prime minister shares a belief in trying to do what we need to do rapidly and to try to affect this [crisis] most effectively, through the Syrian opposition coalition.”
Kerry also defended US President Barack Obama’s “clear” stance in support of the Syrian people by working to impose sanctions on Syria’s government, and working to identify and strengthen the opposition.
However, Kerry made no indication that the United States would take any stronger action in Syria.
The other major line of questioning at the press conference had to do with the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, which the Qatar prime minister referred to as “dead”.
“The stalemate, or the dead peace process, we hope can be revived seriously and genuinely by the key sponsor - the United States,” Al Thani said.
Qatar on the Champs Élysées by Omar Chatriwala and contributed to the Doha News Flickr Group.
Strolling down what is perhaps the most famous street in Paris, it is hard to miss Qatar’s prime location. The Qatari embassy sits at the western end of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, overlooking the Arc de Triomphe.
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Microsoft’s Bing.com search engine purchased my photo from Getty Images of the dovecotes at Katara Cultural Village in Qatar, and has been using it as their cover image.