Category Archives: Doha News

‘I lost most of my savings’ – The cost of risky financial advice in Qatar

Images Money / Flickr

Images Money / Flickr

Last month, I spent several weeks researching and writing this story for Doha News about the financial advice industry in Qatar, and the bad experiences some investors have had with advisers in the region, both regulated and unregulated. It sparked a lot of interest, with many people sharing their experiences – both good and bad – in the comments section below.

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Qatar Airways 777 sees ‘substantial’ damage after takeoff incident

Peter Russell / Flickr

Peter Russell / Flickr

Earlier this month, a Qatar Airways 777 hit the Approach Lighting System at Miami’s airport on take off, causing “substantial damage” to the aircraft. Despite this, the crew continued the flight as normal and the aircraft landed safely in Doha. Significant damage to the aircraft’s belly was discovered by ground crew afterwards, and the accident was reported to the USA’s FAA, which is investigating.

My resulting story for Doha News was incredibly popular. Click here to read it.

(Although I’ve now left Qatar, I’m still working for Doha News as Editor-at-Large, which means I’m still contributing stories, particularly those in which I have a special interest.)

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Mother and child in jail for debt – a follow-up story for Doha News

sarahkoller.com

sarahkoller.com

Recently, I wrote a follow-up to a very popular Doha News story from last year, in which I focused on women who’d been jailed in Qatar for giving birth outside of wedlock.

In the latest story, I write about Mary (not her real name), who’d originally been sentenced to a year in prison with her baby for sex outside marriage, and was still in jail, more than 15 months later, due to debts, most of which she had accumulated after borrowing money from a loan shark.

The story went viral and got shared widely on Twitter and Facebook. It’s co-authored with my Doha News colleague Peter Kovessy, who provided the sections on the legal framework in Qatar.

You can click here to read it, and the comments underneath – 122 to date – are well worth reading, too.

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New special needs centre opens in Doha as demand for support rises

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Recently, I met a group of very determined, very feisty mothers who are all battling to get the best therapy possible in Qatar for their children, who are all on the autistic spectrum.

I spoke to a Qatari mother who decided to found the Child Development Center, a new support centre for autistic children. It’s very expensive, but the service they provide is – according to the mothers I spoke to – life-changing.

You can read my story for Doha News here.

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Doha’s new Hamad International Airport finally opens for business

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On April 30th 2014, Doha’s new airport, Hamad International, finally opened to passengers – five years late. I went along to the opening ceremony, asked questions at the press conference, and spoke to some of its first passengers.

As for passenger experience – I noted that very few of the airport’s restaurants and shops were open. In fact, there were only three cafes, and two duty free shops. Whether the rest will be open in time for the full transfer of all air traffic on May 27th remains to be seen.

The resulting story on Doha News was one of our most-read stories ever, with 13.5k shares from our website alone.

Click here to read it.

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Confiscated champagne: Gordon Ramsay vs Qatar’s alcohol laws

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Earlier this month, I went along to a press conference held at the St Regis hotel in Doha to mark the first anniversary of British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s two restaurants there.

He’d opened the two outlets after the closure of his first Qatar venture, Maze, due to a recent ban on alcohol sales on its location –  luxury island The Pearl – so naturally, the topic of alcohol was on the discussion table.

I asked him whether he still believed the Pearl alcohol ban wouldn’t continue, and his response to that question formed the lead of the resulting Doha News story.

Not content with this response, however, he went on to tell us about the seizure of a treasured bottle of Dom Perignon champagne from his suitcase by Qatari customs officials on his arrival in Doha a couple of days earlier. Apparently unaware of the fact that it’s illegal to bring alcohol into Qatar (you can only buy it here with a license from the country’s solitary booze shop, or from five star hotels) he’d packed the bottle, a present from a friend, in his bag.

We included this tale further down our story. No other Qatar-based outlets have written about this yet, as far as I know – probably due to the extent of self-censorship in the country.

Anyhow, this anecdote has since spread far and wide, unfortunately largely uncredited to Doha News (and, in one case, plagiarised by an agency who sold the story on to the UK’s Daily Star – we’re attempting to get that rectified.)

If you spot it in the wild, could you let me know?

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‘Head butt’ statue stirs up controversy in Doha

zidane

Earlier this month, Doha News ran a very popular exclusive – pictures and an accompanying story about the surprise installation of controversial sculpture “Coup de Tête” – or “Head Butt” in English – by Algerian artist Adel Abdessemed on Doha’s corniche. The work captures the moment when French football player Zinedine Zidane head-butted Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup.

The story was the result of a meeting with the Qatar Museums Authority, who agreed to give me advance warning of the installation. The resulting post spread virally, becoming one of our most popular stories this month so far.

The statue has so far caused a fair amount of controversy, being labelled, amongst other things, as un-Islamic and promoting violence.

Click here to read my story.

Have you seen the statue in situ? What do you think?

Credit: Photo by Gazanfarulla Khan

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Babies behind bars: The women who go to jail in Qatar just for getting pregnant

boots

This week, I wrote a pretty hard-hitting piece for Doha News about the fate of women in Qatar who give birth to illegitimate babies. If they do so, they’re breaking the law, and they receive a guaranteed jail sentence, which they serve with their babies.

For the piece, I spoke to one woman who is currently on the run in Qatar after giving birth to a baby girl eight months ago out of wedlock. She will inevitably have to hand herself in and serve her sentence.  I also include an extract from a desperate email I received last year from a woman in similar situation, who’s now also in jail. It was this email which sparked off my investigation.

Let me know what you think of the article.

Credit: Photo for illustrative purposes by Angela Randall

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The astonishing Villaggio trial verdict

villagio

 

Last Thursday brought astonishing news. The verdict in the Villaggio fire trial – the trial of those accused of negligence leading to the deaths of 19 people in Doha’s Villaggio Mall last year – was announced, and it was one we hadn’t expected. Five of the defendants were given jail terms for involuntary manslaughter, including Qatar’s Ambassador to Belgium and his wife, the daughter of Qatar’s culture minister.

With the help of our translator Riham, who was outside the court, I broke the story first on Twitter, and wrote and updated the story for Doha News throughout the day. Here‘s the story in full.

The convicted five are still out pending an appeal, which could take up to 12 months.

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International healthcare watchdog investigates HMC over treatment of Villaggio fire victims

dohanewsLast week, Doha News published a story I’d written about Hamad Hospital’s treatment of the Villagio victims and their families after the fire. We were given access to many previously unseen documents, including embalming reports on the Weekes’ triplets. The Villagio fire trial continues.  Click here to read the article.

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