All photos by Navin Sam; with reporting from Peter Kovessy
That includes dozens who knew they’d be turned away, but had hoped to catch a glimpse of the festivities from the sidelines near Souq Waqif instead.
Speaking to Doha News yesterday, Indian expats Jayan and Ravi said they arrived at 4:30am – some 3.5 hours before the parade was scheduled to start – and were blocked at multiple entrances.
“It is our first time here,” Jayan said. “We heard that they were letting people in last year, so today being a holiday we naturally came to see the parade but were surprised to find that it was an exclusive event.”
In addition to blocking the men from entering, police officers wearing riot equipment could be seen asking several to produce identification.
The exclusion of “single” men from National Day celebrations at the Corniche is an annual source of disappointment for many blue-collar expats, who have typically moved to Qatar without their spouses or children.
The influx of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers has dramatically skewed Qatar’s demographics, so that the male-to-female ratio is now 3:1.
This has created a tricky dilemma for authorities, who want women to feel comfortable attending public events, but don’t necessarily want to exclude the vast majority of the population.
As in past years, expats were encouraged to attend QND celebrations and parades in other parts of Qatar.
The Ministry of Interior said several schools and organizations participated in events at the Wakrah Sports Club, Al Rayyan Sport Club, the Barwa Worker’s Complex in Al Khor as well as “Asian Town” in the Industrial Area.
Nevertheless, being barred from the main celebrations left some feeling ostracized.
“Most of these men here helped build this country, yet they’re the ones who are excluded. Only people with money can go in,” said Harsh, a Sri Lankan expat.
“(But) it’s their country, so they can do whatever they want.”
QND aside, the demographic issue has been a big one this year.
This fall, Central Municipal Council members have been debating reviving family-only days at shopping centers and the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning published a series of interactive maps on its website highlighting that laborers cannot live in central Doha.
The debate over who has access to shared spaces continues among blue-collar workers as well, with some previously saying they don’t mind segregation, while others call it hypocritical.
After being turned away from yesterday’s parade, Indian expat Sohail Kashif said:
“They invite us for all the events they have no audience for, like football matches. But for an event like this, they separate us.”
Meanwhile, many of the men who went to the Corniche yesterday told Doha News that they knew they would not be let in, but still came with the hope of catching a glimpse of the air show.
Early in the morning, some sat on chairs they found outside Souq Waqif. However, authorities eventually instructed souq staff to ask the men to leave and put away the chairs.
“They should at least let us stand near the parade grounds and then separate us from the families, so we can see what’s going on,” said expat Tahir Hasnie. “This is not good.”