All photos by Chantelle D’mello
Nearly 200 residents of Qatar gathered at the Palestinian embassy in Doha last night to vent their frustrations about the ongoing Israeli bombing campaign of the Gaza Strip.
So far, more than 200 people have been killed as the campaign enters day eight.
The rally began shortly after 8pm and lasted for two hours, drawing men, women and children from all over Qatar.
Palestinians, Qataris, Sri Lankans, Indians and others from various countries waved Palestinian flags, raised banners and chanted slogans calling for an end to the ongoing violence and bloodshed in Gaza.
Speaking to Doha News before the event began, organizer Mohammed Adwan explained that the rally was called “to give people a space to sit and talk about topics like the occupation… Even if one person comes and hears our message, then we have succeeded.”
The solidarity event began calmly as a peaceful sit-in, but quickly grew more emotionally charged, with attendees shouting for justice and raising their fists for emphasis.
“One, two, three, four, occupation no more. Five, six, seven, eight, we don’t want your Zionist state,” shouted one attendee.
The heavy media presence appeared to spur protesters on; some climbed onto chairs and sofas, holding signs and raising their flags high for the benefit of the numerous photographers that had gathered to cover the event.
Meanwhile, children sitting on the shoulders of adults held up signs reading “Save the children of Palestine” and “Stop (the) indiscriminate killing of innocent lives in Gaza.”
Two police patrol cars were stationed outside the embassy, but did not interfere with the rally, or seek to quiet the crowd.
Political protests in Qatar are rare, and typically require government approval before they can be held.
However, because this event took place on the embassy’s grounds, no permission was needed, the Palestinian ambassador previously told Doha News. He added however that the embassy had not organized the event – it was simply hosting it.
Chanting for Palestine
Yesterday, there was a brief hope that the Israeli government and Hamas leaders would reach a ceasefire brokered by Egypt. However, Hamas rejected that idea, saying they had not been consulted about the terms of that agreement – and continued to fire rockets aimed at Israel.
Since then, Israel has stepped up its bombing campaign, as relief organizations on the ground decry the blow to the infrastructure in Gaza and the loss of innocent lives.
Frustrated with the developments, protesters at last night’s events chanted:
“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”
Other chants in Arabic drummed up Palestinian patriotism and sentiment:
“Gaza, up you go! Rise! Lions were born on your land!” said one, while another said, “Our freedom is not for sale! Down! Israel will fall! There will be resistance. We will defeat the sons of the devils. Name your voice, don’t let there be silence.”
Attendees from Sri Lanka and Southern parts of India also shouted slogans in their languages.
Abdullah Darwish, a 17-year-old Qatari student at the American School of Doha, said he attended the protest with his friends to support the Palestinian cause.
“We read about the event on Doha News, and decided to attend. It’s the least that we can do. We’re all brothers, and we need to show our support for them in these trying times. It’s amazing to see people from so many different communities gather here to do the same.”
Yousef Mahmoud, an Egyptian expat, echoed a similar sentiment, saying more such demonstrations were needed because “this is not just an Arab issue, but a humanitarian one.”
However, others said they had expected more from the rally. Ghina El Aker, a 20-year-old Northwestern University in Qatar student, called the event poorly organized.
“It began during Isha prayer and lasted throughout taraweeh. People only knew it was happening a day before. I’ve been to a protest (in Doha) a few years ago where there were hundreds of people marching on the streets, whereas this was contained.”
After around an hour of steady chanting and protest, the event lulled, as people started to file out. A few stayed behind to sit, talk, and catch up with friends who had also gathered for the rally.
At around 9.30pm, the Palestinian Ambassador, Munir Ghannam, arrived and thanked the crowd.
Speaking to Doha News after his address, Ghannam lauded the Qatari government’s efforts to abate the current crisis.
“The government, and, especially the Emir, have been coordinating with relevant parties like the Turks, Egyptians, UN, and the United States in order to explain that the bloodshed has to stop. We hope that their efforts will have a tangible impact.”
However, he added that an solution to the problem was highly unlikely unless the occupation of Palestinian territory ceased.
“We came together to send a message that the world can no longer tolerate this. But the problem is occupation, regardless of what is happening now. All that our people do, on all fronts, are acts of Palestinian resistance to the occupation…
Even if the Israelis throw roses on us, they are still the aggressors, and we the victims because they are on our land. Once that it is over, all our troubles will end.”