Qatar: Down with Mubarak, residents say

Down with Mubarak.

That is the popular sentiment in the tiny Gulf Arab country of Qatar, whose residents have been furiously filling the Internet with support for Egyptian protesters, criticisms of Mubarak and statements of pride for Doha-based Al Jazeera for its no-holds-barred reporting of the week's events.

The peaceful peninsula has even experienced two protests in the past week, the most political activism Qatar has seen since the 2009 War in Gaza.

During the first protest against embattled Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, which took place on Friday after jum'aa prayers, Qatari police intervened quickly, saying the event was “mamnua” – prohibited.

Protesters gather near the Egyptian embassy in Doha on Tuesday, calling for Mubarak to step down (Photos by Miko Mayer)

Freelance journalist Omar Chatriwala reported about the event on his blog, Synthetic Jungle:

Around 100 people gathered in Qatar to protest against the Mubarak government of Egypt, in a sign that the Gulf nation is not completely isolated from the unrest witnessed in other parts of the Middle East.

The crowd – decked out in Egyptian flags and wielding signs – assembled after Friday prayers in the capital Doha, a block from Egypt's embassy, which had been cordoned off by police. Authorities, meanwhile, sought to deter onlookers from joining the protest, saying it was a banned assembly.

After chanting slogans calling for democracy and an end to President Hosni Mubarak's rule, protesters held janazah (funeral) prayers on the street for those killed during recent demonstrations in Egypt…

Less than an hour after the gathering began – and at police urging – the demonstrators began to disperse, chanting a thank you to Qatar for allowing them to have their voices heard.

On Tuesday, a much bigger crowd – reportedly around 500 people – gathered near the Egyptian embassy. Police blocked off the area again, but this time seemed to allow protesters to have their say.

Al Jazeera English assistant news editor Malika Bilal, who was at the scene, tweeted about the events.

@mmbilal said:

Ppl of all ages gathering in doha for #egypt solidarity rally. #tahrir square

And then:

‘Ya mubarak sa7 al nowm, alnaharda akhir youm’ – the #doha crowd's fav chant #egypt #tahrir

@hussdajani chimed in:

HUGE march for #Cairo #Egypt #Jan25 in West Bay area in #doha #qatar ! Down with #mubarak

When asked about the growing police presence, @mmbilal said:

the #qatar police are staying a considerable distance away from the crowd, so no, no arrests! #egypt #tahrir

And finally:

Last of the close to 3-500 ppl leaving #egypt solidarity rally in #doha as rain starts to fall.

Not everyone has been excited about Qatar getting in on the protest action.

On Twitter, @DohaBen said:

Hope Qatar doesn't get too involved in protests like that…don't need any bad publicity.

Still, even in academia, support for recent events around the Middle East persists.

On Wednesday, Northwestern University in Qatar released an open letter signed by 18 faculty members (myself included), pieces of which were blogged by Al Jazeera English.

It reads:

Over the last few weeks throughout the Arab World, hundreds of thousands of people of all social backgrounds have felt a surge of freedom to express themselves to one another out in the open, a fundamental human impulse. They are neighbors gathering in cities, bloggers and tweeters getting word to one another, and journalists covering what matters …

We at Northwestern University in Qatar are a small part of the whole world that is watching, and we appeal to Arab governments to remove barriers to free expression. Let your people speak.

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