In May 2012, 19 people, including two-year-old triplets Lillie, Jackson and Willsher Weekes, died in a fire at Villaggio Mall. Today, the children’s parents will mark what would have been their fifth birthday.
Five people were convicted of involuntary manslaughter in relation to the deaths, a case that is now held up in appeals. Here, New Zealander Jane Weekes shares with Doha News readers an adapted version of a recent Facebook post she wrote mourning her family’s loss, and asking if justice will ever be served.
Lillie, Jackson and Willsher would have been five years old today, and we are having a hard time coping with the “should’ves, would’ves and could’ve beens.”
I should be out searching for the perfect school bags and stationary for them.
They would have been sad to leave their kindy friends but excited to see their other friends at their new school.
I could have been worrying about being “that” mother crying her eyes out at the school gate because my babies were now School Kids and that I’d put too much sugar/gluten/McDonalds in their lunch boxes!
Instead I’ve found myself crying over what they, Martin and I are missing out on.
I’m sure those of you out there who have also lost children, or other loved ones too young understand.
We don’t just grieve for the memories we have of our babies, but we mourn the dreams we have had for them. The first day of school, the first football match, the first ball dress etc…
As each milestone or special occasion happens the scar is ripped off and the gaping wound below is exposed as raw and bleeding again.
Waiting for justice
Things are made even harder as to this day, there has still been no justice for the children who were killed at Villaggio.
None of the people convicted of our babies’ manslaughter have spent a single day in prison.
The owners and managers of Gympanzee, Sheikh Ali Bin Jassim Al Thani and Iman Al Kuwari, are representing Qatar in Belgium as the Qatari Ambassador and his wife. The couple sometimes doesn’t attend the appellate court hearings, and have given excuses about work duties or needing to take care of their children.
If they had taken proper care of ours, they would still be alive today.
We are trying to have faith in the justice system of Qatar, but when convicted felons are rewarded with diplomatic postings we feel our children’s lives have been disregarded, and dismissed as trivial compared to the career of a high-born Qatari.
We hope everyone will remember that to this day Villaggio has never acknowledged what, if any improvements it has made to its emergency systems or procedures. Nor have they taken any responsibility for their role in the deaths of 13 children, four young women and two firefighters.
We hope that everyone will remember that the Villaggio fire, the mishandling of the investigation, the non-disclosure of any reports and the continued torture of the victims families with court adjournments and delays continues to bring shame on Qatar.
We also hope everyone in Qatar will take a moment to remember Lillie, Jackson and Willsher, and to imagine what they should have been like on the 11th of March when they would have turned five.
We miss them as much today as we did nearly three years ago when I kissed them goodbye while having their morning snack in Gympanzee and said “Mummy loves you, see you later.”