Browsing 'youth' News


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Non-Muslims should be afforded the same rights as Muslims when living in a Muslim country, the majority (89 percent) of recently polled Qatari youth have said.

They were the most likely in 10 Arab countries to believe this to be true.

That’s according to the second annual Muslim Millennial Attitudes on Religion and Religious Leadership report.

Al Tabah Foundation

Survey results

The findings concern the report’s authors, who said there is a “dire lack of understanding among young Arabs” about how citizenship and rights work under Islam.

“The view that citizenship is subject to a hierarchy of prominence determined primarily by one’s faith is precisely the frame that extremist groups want normalized,” the report said.

The survey was conducted by the Abu Dhabi-based Tabah Foundation along with Zogby Research, which released the results this week.

The report gauges religious sentiment among youth in Qatar, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Oman, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen.

To arrive at their conclusions, the authors interviewed more than 7,000 young Arabs in these countries earlier this year.

Identity questions

One reason Qataris might believe in equal treatment is because they were among the most likely to say they have friends or acquaintances who are not Muslim (84 percent).

In Lebanon, 95 percent of young Arabs answered affirmatively to that question.

Embrace Doha

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But elsewhere, most people in Sudan, Mauritania, Yemen and Tunisia, among others, said they do not have non-Muslim associates.

When it came to their identity, most Qatari youth (59 percent) surveyed listed their country as the first thing that defined them.

Far fewer cited being Arab (18 percent) or Muslim (19 percent) first, and only 4 percent listed their family or tribe first.

Omar Chatriwala / Doha News

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However, nine out of 10 Qataris polled said it is still important for people they meet to know they are Muslim.

And 71 percent said religion has an important role to play in their country’s future.

Banning content

Perhaps due to their strong religious convictions, the majority of youth in all countries surveyed said they believe cultural content that breaches society’s morals and ethics should be banned.

In Qatar, 67 percent supported that notion, while 33 percent agreed with the idea that if they don’t like it, they don’t have to watch it.

Vox Cinema/Facebook

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Interestingly, Qatar was on the less conservative side when it came to censorship, compared to other countries surveyed (except for Lebanon).

The findings could indicate dropping support for banning content.

Just three years ago, for example, a media study found that 80 percent of Qatar residents approved the deletion of offensive scenes in movies.

“This support for censorship and government monitoring of entertainment content is observed across all facets of the population, except, perhaps, among Western expatriates in Qatar,” Northwestern University in Qatar said at the time.

Islamic reforms needed

When it comes to Islam, many Qataris (25 percent) said they found Friday sermons to be “bland and boring.” And only a third said they were inspirational.

The numbers may explain why Qataris overwhelmingly (70 percent) supported the idea of reforming religious discourse to make it more relevant to their lives.

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Local youth also believe more can be done for women in society.

Some 79 percent of Qataris said their society respects and empowers women – the most out of every country except Yemen.

But Qataris were also the most likely to support the idea that female religious scholars should be able to preach more widely in society.

Finally, a majority of youth polled in all countries said groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda “are misguided and tarnish the image of Islam.”


Expat Shella group Valeria Mazzei, Aayah Dowdar, Abdullah Javed and Josh Hillan (not pictured: Sabrina Atat)

Humans of the Middle East/Facebook

Expat Shella group Valeria Mazzei, Aayah Dowdar, Abdullah Javed and Josh Hillan (not pictured: Sabrina Atat)

In some ways, teens in Qatar are like young people everywhere. Outside of school, they hang out, drive around, listen to music and eat.

But for those growing up outside of their home countries, things are also more complicated than that, thanks to factors such as homesickness and different cultural norms.

To help illuminate some of the pros and cons of living in Qatar, a group of teens has recently launched a YouTube channel about their lives.

Expat Shella (expat squad) is the brainchild of mostly high school-age students from Italy, Australia, India, Scotland and Lebanon.

The series of first-person videos that focus on different aspects of “teenage life” in Qatar launched in October, but was recently in the limelight after being featured on popular Facebook group Humans of the Middle East.

Earlier this month, the teens told the group:

“Many teenagers don’t have a choice about whether or not they want to come and live here. They usually end up here because their parents have moved here for work.

We would have loved it if we had been able to have a glimpse into what life is like for a teenager before we came here, as it would have helped relieve any anxiety and nerves we had. Being a teenager here looks a little different to what it does in the countries where we come from, but it still has its great points that we want to share with other people.”

A collaborative effort, the videos are usually shot via GoPro by Valeria Mazzei, who along with friends Abdullah Javed, Aayah Dowdar, Josh Hillan and Sabrina Atat vlog as they go around Qatar.

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Vlady Sarzhevsky/Flickr

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Vlogging, or video blogging, is a fairly nascent concept in Qatar, though its popularity elsewhere in the world has been growing.

Throngs of teenagers and young adults often use the method to share moments of their lives on Youtube, as well as offer makeup tutorials, DIY hacks and other segments.

The activity can take one of many forms, with practitioners often using sarcasm, humor and satire to talk about their lives or take on current world issues and trends.

Growing up in Qatar

Co-founders said part of the reason they started the vlog was because of a dearth of recreational activities geared toward their age group in Qatar.

Speaking to Doha News, 16-year-old Lebanese expat Sabrina Atat said that growing up here has been especially hard due to strict cultural and religious norms.

She explained:

“Living a teenage life in Qatar can be very difficult especially since it has a different…culture. We all try and make the most of it.

On weekdays we all go to school except Aayah (who is homeschooled) and Abdullah (who is in university). Josh and I go to the same school and are in the same class so we get to hang out at school but it is hard because of the segregation rules that we have to follow,” she said.

The idea to start creating videos, she added, soon became the main focus of their hangout sessions, and offered the group a productive option over the usual weekend mall outings.

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Ray Toh

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For Mazzei, who has only lived in Qatar for a year, moving to Doha meant giving up a lot of the things she had enjoyed at home.

“In Italy, a teenager’s life is full of freedom and fun, but it is not as safe as here in Qatar. One of the things that I miss the most is walking on the street from a place to another any time of the day.

When I used to do it, sometimes it seemed annoying, but when I realized that here I would not get to do it, I felt like a piece of my freedom was taken away.

Though Atat hails from Lebanon, where there are some cultural similarities to life in Qatar, being isolated from the rest of her extended family and missing out on their weekly gatherings does make growing up in Qatar more difficult.

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Still, both teenagers said that living with the restrictions imposed by the country made finding a special group of friends all the more worthwhile.

“(We basically) do three things here: (drive), (listen to) music and (drink) karak. It is something that makes us feel free and to be honest it is funnier than spending the afternoon between the walls of a mall.

Everybody likes being with friends, but here it is one of the most important things because if you have friends, everything seems amusing and you have (a better experience),” Mazzei said.


The tone of the videos are conversational and offer a peek into the few youth-centered entertainment options in Qatar. The footage includes quips about local customs and culture, combined with a few pranks and challenges.

In one video, for example, the group tours Souq Waqif, talking about the decor, sights, and sounds, before explaining what sheesha and karak is. In another, the team highlights their take on “compound life.” The video ends with the team covering Javed’s car in post-it notes as a fun prank.

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Other clips hope to dispel stereotypes of the region being oppressive to women or unchanging in the face of modernity, as the teenagers tackle the issue of the hijab and perceived language barriers in Qatar.

According to their debut video, the group also hopes to interview other expats living here, with the hope of offering the outside world a preview of life in the burgeoning Middle Eastern country.

The weekly videos take some five to six hours to edit, and several more to shoot, said Mazzei, adding:

“We take it very seriously, but at the same time we have fun and we want to show our happiness. Currently, we (try to) upload once a week, but we’re trying to start to upload more than one video per week…We have so much (more) to give to the people.”

So far, the team has received moderate response, with an average of 1,000 to 1,500 views per video, and have garnered over 300 subscribers.

Marketing for their content is largely low key, and is done with help from Mazzei’s mother via the members’ social media channels.

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Though the group agrees that the paucity of relevant entertainment options and social activities does hinder regular “teenage life,” there are upsides to growing up in Qatar.

(It’s) is not the best (thing) that could happen to someone – growing up here – because it’s a very strict country and it’s hard to find some entertainment,” Mazzei said.

“But, (we do get) an international education, the opportunity to meet people from all around the world, all in a safe environment. It’s important to appreciate the things that have been given to us and be thankful every day to our parents that are letting us live a big opportunity.”


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As part of efforts to tackle rising drug use among young people in Qatar, the country is considering imposing stricter punishments on dealers who sell to adolescents, an official has said.

In an interview published in Al Sharq today, Amr Aly Al Hemeidy, assistant director of the Ministry of Interior’s narcotics department, said that the most dangerous drugs used by addicts in Qatar are cocaine, heroin and morphine.

Other more common drugs that are often misused include psycho-stimulants like tramadol, captagon and Lyrica, he said.

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Last year, a senior official at the newly opened Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre (TRC) said that between 3 to 5 percent  of Qatar’s population is addicted to either alcohol or drugs.

He added that the full scale of the problem isn’t known, as no official statistics are currently kept, and that many addicts fail to seek help in Qatar due to the stigma attached to addiction here.

Addressing this issue, Al Hemeidy emphasized that drug addicts can be ordered by the court to be committed to a rehabilitation facility, rather than serve jail time. Those who voluntarily seek treatment from drug addiction are not charged, he added.

Additionally, a spouse or relative can also ask the prosecution to commit the drug addict to a rehabilitation facility without his/her consent, he said.


Current penalties for drug use and dealing range from jail time to the death penalty, in addition to fines of up to QR500,000, according to Law No. 9 for the year 1987.

According to Al Hemeidy, narcotics have a negative effect on the whole family, both socially and economically.

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Drug addicts can become a burden on their loved ones, resorting to stealing or other illegal methods to be able to buy drugs, he said. Those who drive under the influence can also cause fatal car accidents, that could lead to the loss of many innocent lives.

To tackle the problem, the official called on Qatar residents to cooperate with authorities to have a society “free from drugs” and establish a safe and stable community.

Al Hemeidy said that his department works in collaboration with other ministries to hold campaigns in schools that raise awareness among students, parents and teachers regarding drug use and prevention.

The department also receives information and complaints regarding any irregular behavior of students suspected of drug abuse. The information, which can be sent through the MOI’s website, is confidential and reported to the designated authorities only if necessary.

Transit point

In addition to combating drug usage within the country, Qatar has been working to foil cross-border smuggling attempts as it becomes an increasingly popular transit point for narcotics trafficking.

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In June, a senior customs official said that authorities foiled 317 attempts to smuggle drugs into the country in 2014, the Peninsula reported. That accounts to almost one seizure a day.

The government has also installed new devices at Hamad International Airport (HIA) to detect drug smugglers, especially passengers who are drug mules.

Officers have previously suggested they visually monitor travelers and have referred to being tipped off by a passenger’s “nervous behavior.”

They’ve also been alerted to suspected drug smugglers by Qatar Airways staff, who have previously reported when a passenger refuses to eat or drink on a long flight, which could suggest that the person swallowed drugs – likely wrapped in condoms or other material – to avoid detection.

Qatar also depends on more conventional methods like the X-raying of bags and the help of a high-tech security vehicle unveiled last year.

Still, attempts to smuggle drugs through and into Qatar have been rising in recent years. Johan Obdola, president of the Vancouver-based International Organisation for Security and Intelligence, told the Peninsula in 2013:

“It’s a very small amount that they have seized in Qatar, but we can see from recent activity that Qatar is a new route for drug traffickers from Brazil and Argentina, among other countries, who are using the route to expand their illicit trade in the Gulf region.”

He added that Qatar’s growing wealth has also made it more attractive as both a destination market and transit point for smugglers.